The second FOIA case decided last week is Walker v. Bruscato, 2019 IL App (2d) 170775. Walker had filed multiple FOIA requests with the Winnebago States Attorney’s Office for records pertaining to his murder indictment. The first request asked for a copy of the grand jury transcript. The second request asked for a “current or previous list of the types and categories of records available for inspection and copying maintained in your office.” His third request asked for a copy of the record of indictments in May and June of 2001. His fourth request asked for a copy of the grand jury votes and deliberation for all indictments returned during that same time period.
The County provided the first requested record and responded to the second request that it had no responsive records. The County denied the third and fourth requests, citing to the confidentiality of grand jury records. Walker then sued, claiming the County violated FOIA related to all four FOIA requests. The circuit court ruled in the County’s favor, and Walker appealed.
The appellate court agreed with the circuit court’s ruling in the County’s favor. First, the court found that the County did, in fact, provide the transcript in response to the first FOIA request. Second, the court held that Walker had no cause of action under Section 11 of FOIA because he was not “denied access” to any public record since the requested records simply did not exist, stating that “A request for records not yet created is invalid.” The court also rejected Walker’s argument that the County failed to maintain the list as required by section 5 because the County created the list following Walker’s request and subsequently provided a link to that list to Walker. Finally, the court agreed that the grand jury records requested in the third and fourth requests were exempt from release as state law expressly prohibits disclosure of grand jury proceedings.