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 Maryam Brotine, ext. 1219, or by

Court decisions are listed in order of the date posted, with the most recent shown first.
  • General Interest to School Officials
    First Amendment Rights of Public Officials on Personal Social Media Pages
    Case: Lindke v. Freed, 144 S.Ct. 756 (2024)
    Decision Date: Friday, March 15, 2024

    Public officials have the right to free speech if the speech is made as private citizens, even on mixed-use social media accounts that include both public and private speech. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) held that speech is public and attributable to the state only if the official (1) possessed actual authority to speak on the state’s behalf and (2) purported to exercise that authority when he spoke on social media.

    Defendant-Appellee James Freed (Freed) maintained a personal Facebook page since 2008. After he was appointed city manager of Port Huron, Michigan in 2014, he continued to use his Facebook page to post about his personal life. However, he also posted information about his job, such as news about city infrastructure efforts, communications from other officials, and surveys soliciting feedback from the public. Readers frequently commented on his posts, and Freed often responded to them. Occasionally, Freed deleted comments that he thought were “derogatory” or “stupid.”

    Plaintiff-Appellant Kevin Lindke (Lindke) was a citizen of Port Huron who disagreed with city policies about COVID. After Lindke made dissenting comments on several of Freed’s posts, Freed deleted the comments and blocked Lindke. Lindke sued, alleging that Freed’s actions constituted state action that infringed on his First Amendment rights.

    First, the Supreme Court held that an official’s social media posts can only be public speech if it is part of the official’s duties, whether express or implied. The Court noted that the state could not “fairly be blamed” for the official’s speech if the official had no authority to speak on behalf of the state.

    Second, the Court held that an official’s speech can only be public if the official invokes their authority by speaking in their official capacity or using the speech to fulfill their responsibilities. A school board president’s announcement about lifting pandemic-era restrictions on public schools is public speech because he invokes his official authority as the school board president. In contrast, sharing the same information at a backyard barbeque is private speech because he is not exercising his authority.

    The Court noted that Freed’s Facebook page was “mixed use” containing both posts made in his personal capacity and posts made in his capacity as city manager. However, the Court noted that officials do not necessarily invoke their authority simply by posting job-related information and that officials have the right to speak about public affairs in their personal capacities. The determination must be made by considering both the content and function of each post.

    Finally, the Court noted that because Facebook blocking operates on an entire page and therefore prevents Lindke from commenting on any post on the page, all posts must be considered when determining whether Freed blocking Lindke was state action. The Court warned that a public official who fails to keep personal posts in a clearly designated personal account exposes themself to greater potential liability.

    The Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

    Michelle Yang, IASB Law Clerk

  • General Interest to School Officials
    Gender Identity Administrative Guidance
    Case: Parents Protecting Our Children, UA, v. Eau Claire Area Sch. Dist., 95 F.4th 501 (7th Cir. 2024).
    Decision Date: Thursday, March 7, 2024

    Parents Protecting Our Children (Plaintiffs), an association of parents, sought an injunction against the Eau Claire Area School District in Wisconsin (District) to stop the enforcement of the District’s Administrative Guidance for Gender Identity Support (Administrative Guidance). Plaintiffs argued that the Administrative Guidance violated the Due Process and Free Exercise Clauses of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with their right to make decisions on behalf of their children.

    The District’s Administrative Guidance envisioned that either students or parents may contact school officials with questions, concerns, or requests bearing on matters of student gender identity, and acknowledged the delicacy and sensitivity of such matters. It also noted the possibility that students “may not be ‘open’ at home for reasons that may include safety concerns or lack of acceptance” and, for that reason, it instructed school personnel to speak with a gender non-conforming student first before discussing the student’s gender identity with the student’s parents.

    The United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin dismissed the case due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction, stating that Plaintiffs failed to identify any instance where the Administrative Guidance was applied in a way that infringed on parental rights.

    The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling and held that Plaintiffs’ concerns about potential applications of the Administrative Guidance did not establish standing to sue unless the Administrative Guidance resulted in an injury or created an imminent risk of injury. The Seventh Circuit stated that Plaintiffs had brought a pre-enforcement facial challenge against the Administrative Guidance without any evidence of the District applying it in a manner detrimental to parental rights.

    The Seventh Circuit also noted that the Administrative Guidance did not mandate exclusion of parents from discussions or decisions regarding a student’s gender expression at school. Since Plaintiffs’ alleged harm was dependent on a speculative “chain of possibilities,” which was insufficient to establish standing, the Seventh Circuit upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

    Mary Bandstra, IASB Law Clerk

  • Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
    Letter from requestor to mayor not public record under FOIA
    Case: Shehadeh v. City of Taylorville, 2024 IL App (5th) 220824-U
    Decision Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2024
    On March 4, 2022, Plaintiff sent a letter to the mayor of the City of Taylorville (City) complaining about the city attorney’s conduct in a pending lawsuit between Plaintiff and the City. The letter included a request for a copy of the letter under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The City’s FOIA officer denied the request, indicating that the letter constituted “an improper and illegal attempted communication” between the representatives of the City in the pending litigation rather than a genuine FOIA request. After filing a complaint alleging that the City violated FOIA, Plaintiff explained that his request was intended to be confirmation that his letter was received and made part of the public record.

    The trial court found no FOIA violation, holding that requests which merely ask for a copy of the request back violated the spirit of FOIA. The appellate court affirmed. While the purpose of FOIA is to make public records open to public scrutiny, the appellate court noted two important limitations: (1) the requested material must relate to the transaction of public business, and (2) the record must have been prepared or received by or be under the possession or control of a public body.

    First, the court held that Plaintiff’s FOIA request contained only complaints about the city attorney and did not pertain to public business. Second, the court held that the mayor was not a “public body.” FOIA explicitly distinguishes between a “public body” and the “head of public body,” such as a mayor. Therefore, Plaintiff’s letter was not a public record that must be disclosed under FOIA. The court also noted that FOIA is intended to provide the public with access to information, and returning a copy of the letter did not further the purpose of FOIA.

    While this case does not involve education law, the limitations of what may be requested under FOIA are relevant for school boards.

    Michelle Yang, IASB Law Clerk
  • Administrator Contracts
    Attorney-client privilege may protect from FOIA disclosure
    Case: Int'l Ass'n of Fire Fighters Loc. 4646 v. Vill. of Oak Brook, 2024 IL App (3d) 220466
    Decision Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2024
    On December 8, 2020, the Village of Oak Brook (Village) conducted a public hearing for its 2021 budget. During that meeting, the Village entered closed session for almost three hours to discuss a proposal that included breaching a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4646 (Union). The Village’s regular attorney and its labor counsel attended the closed session.

    The Union brought suit against the Village, alleging that the Village violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA) for improperly entering closed session and that the Village violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for failing to provide transcripts and recordings when requested.

    The trial court granted summary judgment for the Union, holding that the Village violated both OMA and FOIA. In addition, the trial court denied the Village’s request to redact closed sessions records that contained attorney-client privileged communications. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the OMA and FOIA violations, but it held that the Village may be permitted to redact privileged communications from the record.

    The Village claimed that Section 2(c)(2) of OMA, allowing closed session to discuss collective negotiating matters, and Section 2(c)(11), allowing closed session to discuss probable or imminent litigation. applied. The Village argued that the closed session involved adopting a budget that would breach the CBA, and breaching the CBA would likely lead to litigation.

    The appellate court held that neither Sections 2(c)(2) nor 2(c)(11) applied. The court noted that there were no active negotiations with the Union. Section 2(c)(2) only allows closed sessions to discuss matters related to an active negotiation, not an anticipated or hypothetical negotiation. Similarly, Section 2(c)(11)’s “probable or imminent litigation” requires that there are reasonable grounds to believe that litigation is more likely than not. The court noted that when the Village entered closed session, it had not yet decided to breach the CBA.

    Since the Village improperly entered closed session under OMA, it was obligated to provide transcripts and recordings when requested under FOIA. While neither OMA nor FOIA has explicit exceptions for attorney-client privilege, both specify that the trial court has discretion to order the production of improperly withheld public records. The appellate court noted that privileged communications are generally not subject to disclosure in discovery and it extended that general principle to hold that the trial court was not required to compel disclosure of privileged communications under FOIA. The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether the Village met its burden of proving any of its communications were exempt under FOIA.

    While this case is not specific to education law, the holdings regarding closed session under OMA and required disclosures under FOIA are applicable to school boards.

    Michelle Yang, IASB Law Clerk
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Taking Final Action in Closed Session
    Case: Public Access Opinion 24-003
    Decision Date: Friday, March 1, 2024
    On January 9, 2024, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the Public Access Counselor (PAC) alleging that at its October 16, 2023 meeting, the Evanston City Council (City) improperly took final action during closed session to authorize an exclusive representation agreement with Jones Lang LaSalle Midwest, LLC (JLL).

    On January 19, 2024, the PAC contacted City, requesting a detailed written answer to the allegations along with unredacted copies of City’s October 16, 2023 closed session minutes and verbatim recording. The evidence showed that in closed session on October 16, 2023, the City Manager asked City to authorize an exclusive representation agreement with JLL in order for City to execute the agreement with JLL. Members were polled and a majority approved execution of the agreement with JLL. Then, still in closed session, the City’s Mayor stated that City staff had been directed to execute the agreement. Upon returning to open session, City voted to adjourn the meeting without taking final action on the exclusive agreement.

    City claimed that the City Manager executed the contract on his own and that it was not subject to final action because the contract was less than $25,000. However, the closed session verbatim recording showed that City Manager expressly sought and obtained City’s approval to enter the agreement. In addition, Section 2(e) of OMA does not limit the requirement that public bodies take final action openly to those final actions that concern expenditures of a certain amount.

    The PAC concluded that City violated section 2(e) of OMA by taking final action during the closed session of its October 16, 2023 meeting. The PAC directed City to reconsider and take final action on the exclusive representation agreement with JLL in the open session of meeting after sufficient public recital in accordance with Section 2(e) of OMA.

    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.