Updates on cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local governments

Subscribe by Email

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a Reader

Follow Municipal Minute on Twitter


Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Thursday, September 13, 2018

FOIA Denial Letters: Don’t Forget to Include Citations and Reasons for Denial!

In Blanco v. Joliet Police Department, after Blanco was arrested by the Joliet Police Department, he sent a FOIA request to the PD asking for any documents and recordings related to his arrest. The PD denied his request under the Juvenile Court Act, and Blanco sued.

Blanco claimed that the PD failed to cite a FOIA exemption and did not prove that the requested records were exempt.  He sought the release of the records and a civil penalty of up to $5,000.  In response, the PD argued that the Juvenile Court Act applied because Blanco was with two minors at the time of his arrest.  The PD also stated that the records contained exempt personal information under 7(1)(c) and 7(1)(d)(iv) of FOIA. The PD further cited 7(1)(a) which prevents disclosure of information prohibited by law and 7(1)(bb), which prevents disclosure of information prohibited by the Juvenile Court Act.  The Circuit Court agreed with the PD and dismissed the case.

Blanco appealed, arguing: 1) the PD failed to comply with FOIA’s requirement that the denial letter include a specific exemption claimed and a detailed factual basis and citation, 2) the PD should have been fined a civil penalty for failing to disclose the requested documents, and 3) the Juvenile Court Act does not prohibit the disclosure of these documents. 

The Court acknowledged that the PD’s denial letter raised questions of whether it complied with FOIA by specifying the exemption and specific reason for the denial. However, the Court noted that even assuming that the denial letter did not comply with FOIA, it is not automatic that the requester would be entitled to have the documents released to him. The Court found that without the record or transcripts on appeal (Blanco failed to provide those to the Appellate Court), it had no way of knowing what happened in the circuit court, so it upheld the Circuit Court's ruling in favor of the PD. 

While the PD was able to get out of possible penalties because of Blanco's procedural deficiencies, this case is a reminder to public bodies of the importance of including the citation for the applicable exemption and detailed factual reasons why it denied the request (whether in whole or in part) when it issues the written denial letter.

Post Authored by Erin Pell, Ancel Glink


Post a Comment