Watchdogs hail decision against Cook County, sheriff in FOIA case
A Cook County judge has ruled that the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the county itself violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a case brought against them by a legal intern, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) report.
Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered the two entities to pay $5,000 in attorney fees and penalties, the ECW said on its Illinois Leaks website.
The case stems from an August 2014 FOIA request from Sarah Cunniff, the plaintiff, who asked for information from the sheriff. Cunniff was an intern for the Shiller Preyar law firm and requested complaint-related records for two officers in a case she was working on.
The sheriff's office responded by asking for multiple extensions before eventually denying the request almost two months later on the grounds that FOIA requests should not be used as a substitute for discovery in legal cases.
Valderrama determined that the sheriff’s office cannot assume acceptance of FOIA deadline extensions based on a non-response from the requester. Valderrama also said the office did not sufficiently justify its denial of Cunniff’s request.
The ECW applauded the decision, adding that it hopes the case will increase acceptance of FOIA requests.