In response to several FOIA requests asking for transcripts of conversations between Sheriff’s Office personnel
and police dispatchers, a Sheriff’s Office released responsive records subject to applicable redactions. The requestor then sued, seeking a court order to compel the release of  records allegedly withheld from disclosure and to explain the FOIA
exemptions used by the Sheriff’s Office to withhold or redact certain records.
The lawsuit also asked the court to impose civil penalties
against the Sheriff’s Office for allegedly willfully and intentionally failing
to comply with the FOIA requests. 

After the lawsuit was filed, the Sheriff’s
Office released additional records responsive to the requests, and explained the FOIA exemptions used to redact information. The
trial court dismissed the lawsuit as moot since records had since been released and denied the request for civil penalties, finding that the Sheriff’s Office
did not willfully or intentionally fail to comply with FOIA.

On appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court also ruled in favor of the Sheriff’s Office. Harsy
v. Perry County Sheriff’s Office
. First, the Appellate Court agreed that
the lawsuit was moot since the Sheriff’s Office had disclosed responsive records and properly cited exemptions to
redact or withhold records. The Appellate Court also rejected the requester’s “bad faith” argument since the Sheriff’s
Office promptly issued refunds to the requestor for all claimed overcharges
after the lawsuit was filed and failed to show the Sheriff’s Office willfully or intentionally failed to comply with FOIA.

The Court also rejected the requestor’s argument that the
trial court should have ordered the Sheriff’s Office to provide an index of
redacted or withheld records, finding that because
the requestor failed to request an index before the trial court’s in
inspection, the necessity for an index after the circuit court’s in camera review was moot.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink