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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Appellate Court Rejects Blanket FOIA Exemption Over Investigatory File

An inmate submitted a FOIA request to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO) seeking records related to a criminal case involving the inmate’s co-defendant in a criminal matter. The SAO denied the request citing FOIA exemption 7(1)(d)(i), arguing that because the requestor had an active post-conviction petition pending, the requested records were exempt from disclosure because disclosing the records would interfere with those proceedings. The requestor sued claiming the SAO improperly denied his FOIA request by asserting a blanket exemption over the records, and the circuit court ruled in favor of the SAO.

On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed the circuit court’s ruling and concluded that FOIA exemption 7(1)(d)(i) does not authorize a public body to claim a blanket exemption over an entire investigatory file, especially where, as here, potentially all of the information had already been publicly disclosed. Makiel v. Foxx. Instead, the SAO was required to, but failed to, provide sufficiently detailed information or documents demonstrating that disclosing any of the requested records would have interfered with a pending law enforcement proceeding.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink


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