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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Appellate Court Rejects Deliberative Process and Attorney-Client Exemptions in FOIA Challenge

Chicago Public Media submitted several FOIA requests to the Cook County Office of the President (OCCP) seeking records relating to a political action committee chaired by a commissioner of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. In response, OCCP produced certain records, and withheld other information based on FOIA exemption 7(1)(f), the deliberative process exemption, and 7(1)(m), the attorney-client communication exemption. Chicago Public Media sued alleging that OCCP improperly withheld certain non-exempt records. After reviewing the withheld documents, the trial court held that OCCP did not violate FOIA in withholding certain records, except for one specific record, which the court ordered OCCP to disclose. Chicago Public Media appealed. 

In Chicago Public Media v. Cook County Office of the President, the Appellate Court determined that OCCP improperly relied on the "deliberative process exemption" to withhold certain documents. Specifically, the Appellate Court found that OCCP did not establish how certain withheld emails that discussed media strategies and the manner of providing information to the public related to its deliberative process for developing governmental policies or actions. 

The Appellate Court also found that certain redacted emails either did not contain confidential legal communications or were not received or sent by an attorney. Although OCCP labelled a string of emails as "Confidential Attorney Work Product," that label alone failed to demonstrate the existence of an attorney-client relationship.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink


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