Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exception
The plaintiff sought disclosure of certain documents related to complaints of police misconduct within the Chicago Police Department (CPD) in the form of Complaint Registers (CR) and Repeater Lists (RL). RLs were documents about officers who amassed the most misconduct complaints. CRs were related to CPD’s completed investigations into allegations of police misconduct. The issue on appeal was whether the CRs and RLs were “adjudicatory” and exempt under Section 7(1)(n) of FOIA.
On appeal the Court held that both CRs and RLs must be disclosed. They are not exempt under Section 7(1)(n) because neither were part of any adjudication. In its ruling, the Court held that it was possible that another FOIA exemption may apply to the CRs and RLs, e.g., the deliberative process exemption. However, whether the deliberative-process exemption applied would be resolved after an “in camera” (private) inspection by the trial court judge after the case was sent back to the trial court for more proceedings.
In camera inspections and FOIA exemptions: Note that the public body bears the burden of establishing that public records fall within a claimed FOIA exemption. To meet the burden, and to assist the court in making its determination, the public body must provide a detailed justification for its claimed exemption, addressing the requested documents specifically and in a manner allowing for the party that is requesting the records to rebut.