In Johnson v. Joliet Police Department and City of Joliet, 2018 IL App (3d) 170726, the plaintiff sought disciplinary records of a police officer through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The Police Department responded by explaining it had no records relating to citizen complaints against the officer and no disciplinary records less than 4 years old in the officer’s personnel file. The Department declined to disclose any disciplinary records greater than 4 years old, citing Section 8 of the Illinois Personnel Record Review Act (820 ILCS 40/8), which prohibits the release of disciplinary actions greater than 4 years old to any third party. Section 7.5(q) of FOIA specifically exempts from FOIA any records prohibited from disclosure by the Review Act.
The plaintiff argued that FOIA trumped the Review Act, relying on Section 11 of the Review Act which dictates that the Review Act should “not be construed to diminish a right of access to records already otherwise provided by law.” The Appellate Court rejected this argument and noted that interpreting Section 11 to trump FOIA would render Section 7.5(q) of FOIA superfluous and meaningless. Thus, the Court held that Section 7.5(q) of FOIA and Section 8 of the Review Act exempted disciplinary records more than 4 years old from FOIA requests. The Court distinguished prior case law that found the Review Act did not apply to FOIA requests as those prior cases involved citizen complaints against police officers rather than disciplinary records. Mike Bersani and Yordana Wysocki defended the City and Department.