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Illinois Supreme Court Issues Decision Upholding Private and Personal Redactions Under FOIA

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Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision regarding the FOIA, upholding a public body’s redaction of traffic accident reports pursuant to Sections 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(c) of the FOIA.

In Mancini Law Group v. Schaumburg Police Department, a requester issued a FOIA request to the Schaumburg Police Department, requesting disclosure of certain traffic accident reports. The Police Department provided the requester with redacted versions of the requested traffic accident reports, citing Sections 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(c) of the FOIA, which exempt private and personal information such as driver’s license numbers, home addresses, personal telephone numbers, and birth dates from disclosure. In response, the requester filed suit alleging the Police Department violated the FOIA by refusing to produce unredacted accident reports. The requester’s position relied on the contention that the Police Department waived its right to withhold the redacted information because the Police Department had previously provided unredacted accident reports to a third-party vendor.   

The Illinois Supreme Court found in favor of the Police Department, holding that a public body does not have the ability waive an individual’s interest in their own private information, even when it has previously provided a state-approved vendor with unredacted copies of the same reports. Here, the Police Department provided unredacted copies of the reports to a third-party vendor (which was acting as an agent under a contract with the Police Department) to satisfy its reporting obligations under the Illinois Vehicle Code. The Court reasoned that, although the reports were previously provided in an unredacted form elsewhere, the Police Department had no right to waive the privacy interests of individuals identified in the traffic reports requested by the requester under the FOIA. Therefore, the Police Department’s redactions were appropriate.   

If you have questions regarding the FOIA, please reach out to the authors of this post or any Franczek attorney.