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Recent Court Decisions

Recent court and agency decisions involving board work

IASB's Office of General Counsel prepares summaries chosen from the Illinois Supreme and Appellate courts, federal court, agencies, the Illinois Public Access Counselor, and other tribunals issuing interesting decisions. Information in the summaries is limited to a brief synopsis and is not intended for purposes of legal advice. For the complete text of any case cited in this section, go to the Illinois state courts, Illinois Attorney General, or Federal courts finder links.

To search by the names of the plaintiff or defendant or other keyword, use the site search box located at the top of this website. Then filter results by Court Decision.

Questions regarding Recent Court and Agency Decisions should be directed to Kimberly Small, ext. 1226, or by email ksmall@iasb.com.


Court decisions are listed in order of the date posted, with the most recent shown first.
  • Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
    Deliberative Process Exemption to Disclosure of Records under FOIA
    Case: Ian H. Fisher v. the Office of the Ill. Atty. Gen., 2021 IL APP (1st) 200225 (1st Dist. 2021).
    Decision Date: Friday, March 12, 2021
    The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District (Court) considered an appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County (Circuit Court) and found that the Office of the Illinois Attorney General (OAG) properly withheld records in response to a FOIA request under the deliberative process exemption in Section 7(1)(f).
     
    During the fall of 2012, OAG filed an action against several Cathode Ray Tube manufacturers alleging they had conspired to fix prices on certain products, resulting in overcharges to Illinois consumers. OAG entered settlement agreements with all of the manufacturers between July 2016 and March 2018. Each settlement agreement stated it would not become final until the circuit court entered a final judgment providing that settlement funds be distributed to eligible claimants. The final judgment has not yet been entered. Plaintiff Fisher represents several clients that submitted claims as part of the settlement, but the majority of his clients were informed that they were not eligible for settlement claims.
     
    Plaintiff then submitted a FOIA request to OAG seeking certain records related to the settlement, including communications concerning eligibility between OAG and consultants OAG hired to help administer the claims process. OAG denied Plaintiff’s request for records, citing Section 7(1)(f) which exempts from disclosure “preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated.” OAG asserted the communications that Plaintiff sought were “written for the purpose of planning courses of action with regard to assessing claims” and therefore they were predecisional and exempt under Section 7(1)(f). Plaintiff responded by filing suit in the Circuit Court, alleging the requested records did not fall under Section 7(1)(f). The Circuit Court concluded the records that Plaintiff sought were exempt under Section 7(1)(f) and that OAG had properly withheld them. Plaintiff appealed.
     
    On appeal, the Court noted that FOIA requires full disclosure unless the desired information is exempted under clearly delineated statutory language, and that when a government claims an exemption it must prove the exemption applies by clear and convincing evidence. Looking to Section 7(1)(f), the Court stated that this exemption expresses public policy favoring the confidentiality of predecisional materials in order to protect the communication process and encourage frank and open discussion among agency employees before a final decision is made. Thus, to use Section 7(1)(f), the responsive materials must be both 1) inter or intra agency, and 2) predecisional and deliberative. The Court found that the materials OAG withheld met both of these requirements, and so OAG met its burden of proof.
     
  • General Interest to School Officials
    Student Residency
    Case: Grzegorz Gwozdz v. Bd. of Educ. of Park Ridge-Niles Sch. Dist. No. 64, 2021 IL APP (1st) 200518 (1st Dist. 2021).
    Decision Date: Friday, March 5, 2021
    The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District (Court) considered an appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County (Circuit Court) and found that a school district properly determined that a student was not a legal resident of the district.
     
    During the 2017-2018 school year, M.G. was enrolled as a 7th grade student in the District and her address was listed at a large two-story building located a few blocks from the school. The building had commercial space on the first floor and residential apartments on the second floor. School officials questioned M.G.’s residency after viewing the lease provided as proof of residency, because it was a lease from the family to itself for 10 years with no change in rent. Using software designed to identify students with potential residency issues, the District identified that the family owned two properties: one within the District and one outside of it. Since the student’s residency was potentially suspect, the District authorized an Investigator to dig deeper. The Investigator conducted surveillance at the out-of-District residence for five days, taking notes and photos of the family (including the student) leaving and entering the residence throughout the day and remaining late into the evening when he left. Early the next morning, Investigator observed the family leave the out-of-District residence. Investigator spot checked the in-District residence but didn’t see any of the family’s vehicles there. Later, Investigator saw the student being dropped off at a market near the school but not at the school itself. Investigator speculated this was done to avoid suspicion because a student who actually lived a few blocks from school wouldn’t need to be dropped off. After reviewing Investigator’s report, the District issued a letter to the family stating M.G. was not a resident and requesting that the family meet with the Superintendent. The letter also informed the family that if, after the meeting, they disagreed with the District’s determination then they could request a residency hearing before the Board. The family met with the District, and then the District convened a residency hearing a few weeks later.
     
    At the residency hearing, the family acknowledged they owned two buildings, one out-of-District and one in-District. They testified that they operated a flower business on the first floor of the in-District building and that an apartment on the second floor had been their primary residence since December 2012. The apartment has one bedroom and one bathroom, and the family testified M.G. and her high-school student brother shared the bedroom while parents slept in the family room. They further testified that M.G. was in charge of the family’s laundry but because the apartment had no laundry facilities, she used the laundry facility at the out-of-District house. The family admitted that even though the apartment was their primary residence since December 2012, M.G. had been enrolled in out-of-District schools through the end of the 2015-2016 school year. The District presented its case, including the software reports, Investigator’s report and photos, and registration documents and materials, and asserted that the combined factors led the District to believe M.G. lived outside the District. The hearing officer found the family made a “thin” prima facie case of residence in the District, which then shifted the burden to the District to disprove residency. The District met this burden because their evidence was “both persuasive and voluminous.” The hearing officer felt the family was not credible and, though the District’s evidence wasn’t “wholly conclusive,” it overwhelmingly suggested the family’s primary base of operations to be out-of-District. The hearing officer ordered the District to charge M.G. tuition for the 2017-2018 school year. The Board reviewed the hearing officer’s findings, considered written objections submitted by the family, and then adopted and incorporated the hearing officer’s findings and written decision that M.G. was not a resident. The family appealed to the Regional Superintendent, who upheld the Board’s decision.
     
    The family then filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Following a hearing, the Circuit Court affirmed the Regional Superintendent’s decision upholding the Board’s decision. Next, the family appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court.
     
    Because this case involved a mixed question of law and fact, the Court reviewed it to determine if the below decisions were “clearly erroneous,” meaning it asked: are we left with the firm conviction that a mistake has been committed? After a thorough review of Illinois School Code residency provisions and cases, the Court held that the hearing officer’s decision was not clearly erroneous. The family urged the Court to weigh the evidence differently, but the Court emphasized that “it is the responsibility of the Board, not the courts, to weigh the evidence and resolve any conflicts in the evidence.” The Court reasoned that because this was an administrative review case, it was required “to affirm the Board’s determination if there is any component evidence in the record to support it.” The Court held that the District’s process was proper and affirmed its decision that M.G. was not a resident.
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Improper Closed Session Discussion under the Exception for Probable or Imminent Litigation
    Case: Public Access Opinion 21-003
    Decision Date: Thursday, March 4, 2021
    The City Council (City Council) of Hillsboro (City) violated Section 2(c)(11) of OMA by improperly using this closed session exception to discuss a matter that “could potentially give rise to litigation” instead of using it for “probable or imminent” litigation.

    The Requestor alleged that the City Council improperly entered closed session during its November 24, 2020 meeting to discuss a City sewer main located on the Requestor’s property. The Requestor believed that the City did not have an easement under his parcel of residential property. Suspecting that a lawsuit over the matter was imminent, the City Council cited section 2(c)(11) of OMA to go into closed session to discuss it further.
     
    Section 2(c)(11) of OMA states that a public body may hold closed session to consider any “probable or imminent” litigation against it. The PAC referenced several court cases and Attorney General opinions to define “probable or imminent.” The PAC concluded that if no litigation is pending, "there must be reasonable grounds to believe that a lawsuit is more likely than not to be instituted or that such an occurrence is close at hand." The PAC noted that the closed session during the City Council’s meeting did not contain any discussion of “pending, probable, or imminent litigation.” In fact, Requestor’s comments during the open session of the meeting indicated that he wanted to continue to work with the City to resolve the issue.
     
    As a result, the PAC determined the City improperly used Section 2(c)(11) and directed the City Council to release the closed session meeting minutes and the verbatim recording of the closed session.
     
    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
  • Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
    Duty to Confer Before Denying Request as Unduly Burdensome
    Case: Public Access Opinion 21-001
    Decision Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2021
    The Chicago Police Department (CPD) violated Section 3(g) of FOIA by improperly denying a FOIA request as unduly burdensome without first conferring with the Requestor about possible ways to narrow the request to manageable proportions.

    On September 11, 2020, Requestor submitted a FOIA request to CPD, seeking copies of any subpoenas received by CPD from federal law enforcement agencies and any search warrants served on CPD during August of 2020. On the same day, CPD extended its time to respond to Requestor by five business days, as permitted by Section 3(e) of FOIA. On September 25, 2020, CPD responded to Requestor, stating it considered the request to be unduly burdensome under Section 3(g) of FOIA and denying the request. In so doing, CPD stated it didn’t have “any automatic mechanism by which to track, query, or limit a search of subpoena and/or search warrant records categorically” as Requestor sought. CPD then offered Requestor an opportunity to submit a new FOIA request. Three days later Requestor replied to CPD, asking to confer about narrowing his request. By October 2, 2020 Requestor had not heard back from CPD and followed-up via email, again asking to confer about the FOIA request. On October 12, 2020, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the PAC, alleging that CPD failed to confer with him before denying his request as unduly burdensome.

    Section 3(g) of FOIA states that before denying a FOIA request as unduly burdensome “the public body shall extend to the person making the request an opportunity to confer with it in an attempted to reduce the request to manageable proportions.” The PAC interprets the plain meaning of “an opportunity to confer” as a chance to engage in dialogue. Because CPD did not do this, the PAC held that CPD failed to fulfill its obligation to confer under Section 3(g). The PAC ordered CPD to take immediate and appropriate action to provide Requestor copies of any subpoenas responsive to his FOIA request, subject only to permissible redactions. The PAC specifically noted that if CPD chooses to redact any information from the records it provides to Requestor, it must include a written notice of the denial that identifies the basis for each redaction.

    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
  • General Interest to School Officials
    Refund of Fair Share Fees Collected Before Janus Denied
    Case: Stacey Mooney v. Ill. Educ. Assn., et al., 2021 WL 231650 (2021)
    Decision Date: Monday, January 25, 2021
    The U.S. Supreme Court (Court) denied review of a petition for certiorari filed by a non-union teacher seeking a refund of fees her union had collected before the Court had declared such fees unconstitutional in its 2018 landmark Janus decision, effectively barring such claims.
     
    In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court (Court) decided Mark Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al. (Janus), holding that public sector agency fee arrangements (a.k.a. “fair share fees”) unconstitutionally violate the First Amendment free speech rights of nonconsenting public-sector employees by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern. As a result, unions were no longer allowed to collect such fees from employees unless they opted in to pay union fees. Following the Janus decision, numerous lawsuits were filed by non-union public sector employees seeking refunds of fees that had been paid before Janus. One case involved Stacey Mooney (Plaintiff), a public-school teacher in Eureka Comm. Sch. Dist. #140 (District) who is not a member of the Illinois Education Association (IEA). From Plaintiff’s start of employment in the District until the Janus decision, the District had deducted fair share fees from Plaintiff’s paycheck and sent them to the IEA.
     
    Plaintiff sued to recover these fees on behalf of herself and a putative class of similarly situated persons in federal district court, seeking restitution under Section 1983 of the U.S. Code (42 U.S.C. §1983). The district court for the Central District of Illinois dismissed her claim with prejudice on April 23, 2019. Plaintiff then appealed to the Seventh Circuit appellate court, which affirmed the district court’s judgment on November 5, 2019. In so doing, the Seventh Circuit noted that the district court’s decision “joined the consensus across the country concluding that unions that collected fair-share fees prior to Janus…are entitled to assert a good-faith defense to section 1983 liability.” Plaintiff then sought review by the Court, but her petition was denied. By declining to review Plaintiff’s claim, as well as other similar claims from across the nation, the Court has effectively barred claims for refunds of fair share fees collected before Janus.