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Monday, February 15, 2016

Post Mortem Photographs Not Exempt Under FOIA

It's February, and the PAC is just releasing its second binding opinion for 2016. That is pretty consistent with prior years - we typically see about a dozen or so PAC binding opinions each year. Consistent with so many other binding opinions, this one doesn't provide any helpful guidance on the issues most commonly faced by public bodies.  Instead, this one falls into the "one-off" category of opinions we've been seeing come out of that office.

In PAC Op. 16-002, the PAC found the Illinois State Police in violation of FOIA when it denied a FOIA request filed by the decedent's estate for post-mortem photographs of a decedent  (including death-scene, autopsy, and other photographs) in the possession of the ISP. The ISP cited 7(1)(c) of FOIA in support of its denial of the request. That exemption protects from release certain personal information that, if released, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. 

The PAC rejected the ISP's denial of the FOIA request, holding that an individual's personal privacy interests cease to exist upon death. The PAC directed the ISP to release the death-scene and autopsy photographs to the requester.

This opinion doesn't offer any new advice to public bodies. Last year, the PAC issued a similar opinion finding IDOT in violation of FOIA for failing to turn over videos depicting a fatal accident to a requester in PAC Op. 15-009.  

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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