In 2020, an individual who was previously convicted of offenses relating to a shooting incident submitted a FOIA request to a municipality seeking copies of inventory sheets and photographs of an old vehicle allegedly containing a gun used to shoot another person. The City prepared two affidavits attesting to the City’s reasonably diligent search for records responsive to the request and denied the request because the City did not have any responsive inventory sheets or photographs within its possession or custody, except for a vehicle tow report which was provided to the requestor.
Before the City even responded to the FOIA request, the requestor sought an injunction to compel the City to produce the requested records and sought civil penalties against the City. The court dismissed the case, finding the requestor’s claims were moot because the City’s affidavits showed the City had already provided all responsive records in its possession.
The requester appealed, and the appelate court upheld the dismissal of the case as moot because the City already produced the only record responsive to the FOIA request in the City’s possession. Bryant v. North Chicago Police Chief and Freedom of Information Officer. The appellate court also rejected the requestor’s speculative claims about the existence of additional records and denied civil penalties against the City, because the City provided all requested documents in its possession and the requestor failed to prove that the City willfully and intentionally failed to comply with FOIA. The appellate court also noted that the requestor failed to appeal his denied FOIA request to the Public Access Counselor’s office of the Attorney General and never received a binding PAC opinion, so there was no presumption that the City acted willfully and intentionally in allegedly failing to comply with the FOIA request.
Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink