Court affirms the dismissal of inmate’s FOIA claims

February 21, 2020

The Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, affirmed the dismissal of an inmate’s claims under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in favor of the Kankakee County Sheriff in Shehadeh v. Downey, 2020 IL App (3d) 170158-U. Plaintiff, Jamal Shehadeh, was a federal detainee housed at the Jerome Combs Detention Center (“JCDC”) in Kankakee County. While detained, he submitted several FOIA requests to Jail staff requesting, among other things, e-mails and text messages that reference him, internet search histories by jail employees, copies of agreements between the Sheriff’s Department and federal agencies, and personnel files of Sheriff’s corrections deputies. When Shehadeh was not provided the documents in a timely fashion, he filed suit. After he filed suit, Plaintiff was provided with all non-exempt documents that he requested. In the trial court, Shehadeh’s claims were dismissed with prejudice based on the applicable exemptions under Section 7 of the Act. Additionally, Shehadeh filed several other motions regarding costs and fees which were denied.

On appeal, the Third District found that Plaintiff’s claims with respect to the materials that were produced to him absent a court order were properly dismissed as moot. Moreover, the Appellate Court credited the detailed affidavit by the Chief of Corrections submitted in support of asserting various exceptions to public disclosure under the Act relating to jail security, individual safety concerns, and the privacy of other individuals – including jail staff members. The Court also rejected Plaintiff’s requests for costs because his request was procedurally defective. Finally, the Court affirmed the denial of Plaintiff’s request for civil penalties because Plaintiff did not plead any facts supporting willfulness or bad faith by the Sheriff in the untimely response to his requests. The Sheriff was represented by Michael W. Condon, and Tony S. Fioretti.

Shehadeh v. Downey, 2020 IL App (3d) 170158-U

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