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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Court Upholds Redaction of Requester's Own Private Information Under FOIA

An inmate filed a FOIA request to a City seeking certain records pertaining to the inmate. The City provided the requested records but redacted the inmate’s private and personal information, including the inmate’s home address, home telephone number, date of birth, and his mother’s name, home address, and home telephone number, pursuant to FOIA exemptions 7(1)(b)(private information) and 7(1)(c)(disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy). 

The inmate then filed a request for review with the Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General's office (PAC) claiming the City’s redactions were improper. The PAC determined that no further inquiry was warranted and closed the file. The inmate next filed a pro se complaint in circuit court, alleging, among other things, that the City violated FOIA by improperly redacting records containing his private and personal information, because the inmate had impliedly consented to the disclosure of his own private and personal so the information was not exempt from disclosure under FOIA. The court dismissed the inmate’s complaint, finding that the records were properly redacted, and the inmate’s argument regarding his entitlement to his own exempt information was “not listed within the statute or any other relevant authority.”

The inmate appealed and the dismissal of the case was upheld by the Appellate Court in Warren v. City of Urbana. Specifically, the Appellate Court rejected the inmate’s argument that by submitting a written FOIA request for his own information, including his home addresses and “locations of incidents”, that the inmate consented to and was entitled to disclosure of otherwise exempt information. The Court noted that the General Assembly specifically included home addresses as “private” information under section 7(1)(b), and the only exception to this exemption is where “disclosure is required by another provision of this Act, a State or federal law, or a court order.” Because the inmate failed to identify any statute or court order which required the City to disclose his private information, the Court determined that the City's redaction of the inmate’s private information was proper.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink


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