In 2021, an inmate at a county jail filed a pro se complaint against a County Sheriff, seeking civil penalties and costs, after the Sheriff denied the inmate’s request that asked for the law enforcement records of another person. The Sheriff argued that the records were exempt because inmate was a prisoner who was requesting law enforcement records under the following FOIA provision: 

Law enforcement records of other persons requested by a person committed to the Department of Corrections, Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health, or a county jail, including, but not limited to, arrest and booking records, mug shots, and crime scene photographs, except as these records may be relevant to the requester’s current or potential case or claim.  5 ILCS 140/7(1)(e-10). 

The circuit court ruled in favor of the Sheriff, and the inmate appealed, arguing that (1) the Sheriff waived the right to assert the exemption because it did not cite the exemption in its initial FOIA denial, and (2) that the Sheriff was required to show that the requested records did not pertain to the inmate’s current or potential case.  

In Shehadeh v. Sangamon County Sheriff, the Appellate Court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling in favor of the Sheriff. 

First, the court held that the Sheriff did not waive FOIA exemption by failing to cite the exemption in its FOIA denial letter. 

Second, the court held that the Sheriff properly denied the request under section 7(1)(e-10). The court held that the Sheriff had no way of knowing whether the responsive records were relevant to the inmate’s small claims case, because the inmate (1) withheld the information about the existence of the small claims case at the time he filed his FOIA request; and (2) failed to share the relevance of the requested records to the inmate’s potential or current case or claim.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink