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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Illinois Supreme Court Hears FOIA Arguments in BGA v. IHSA Case

Previously, we reported on a decision by an Illinois appellate court ruling against the Better Government Association (BGA) in a lawsuit challenging the denial by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) of its FOIA request. Following that ruling, the BGA filed an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, which heard the case earlier this week.  You can access the video or listen to the audio of the oral argument here.

The case involved the IHSA's denial of a FOIA request filed by the BGA asking the IHSA for accounting, sponsorship, public relations/crisis communications services and licensed vendor applications. The IHSA argued that it was a non-profit organization and not a public body subject to FOIA. The BGA responded that the IHSA is a "subsidiary public body" under FOIA because it performs a governmental service for its member school districts. Both the circuit and appellate courts ruled in favor of the IHSA, finding that the IHSA was not a subsidiary body and was not subject to FOIA.

At oral argument before the Illinois Supreme Court, the BGA argued that the IHSA should be considered a subsidiary body under FOIA because of the ties between the member schools and the IHSA and the governmental functions the IHSA performs on behalf of their member schools. The Justices spent some time questioning the BGA attorney on the matter of "control" between the member schools and the IHSA, asking the BGA to identify specific constitutional or statutory ties that exist, as well as questions as to the IHSA's funding sources.

The IHSA responded in its argument that the fact that public bodies may join an association (such as the IHSA), does not transform that private association into a subsidiary body under state law. The Justices focused their questioning on how the IHSA is funded (private donations and attendance fees), and that the IHSA is not supported by tax dollars.

The Illinois Supreme Court will issue a written ruling sometime in the future, so stay tuned as we will report on that decision when it comes out.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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