Last week, the First Circuit decided NBC Subsidiary (WMAQ-TV) LLC v. Chicago Police Department, a case addressing FOIA and the confidentiality provisions of the Juvenile Court Act (JCA). In July 2014, Chicago Police Department police officers fatally ...

 

Court Orders Public Release of Records Relating to Police Shooting of a Minor and more...



Court Orders Public Release of Records Relating to Police Shooting of a Minor


Last week, the First Circuit decided NBC Subsidiary (WMAQ-TV) LLC v. Chicago Police Department, a case addressing FOIA and the confidentiality provisions of the Juvenile Court Act (JCA).

In July 2014, Chicago Police Department police officers fatally shot a 16-year-old after he pointed a firearm at the officers on numerous occasions. There were several witnesses to the shooting, and the independent police review board in Chicago subsequently released basic details of the incident including the minor’s name, the date and time of the incident, and the type of incident. In January 2016, WMAQ filed a FOIA request with the CPD, requesting “all police reports, case reports, case incident reports and supplemental reports filed in the police shooting.” CPD denied the request arguing that the JCA barred disclosure of these records to WMAQ as it was not an “authorized party” entitled to access of the records. After CPD denied the FOIA request, WMAQ filed a request for review with the Public Access Counselor (PAC).

In February 2016, the PAC issued a nonbinding determination letter that concluded the CPD violated FOIA by withholding records concerning the investigation into the police shooting death of the minor. The PAC stated that the CPD had to disclose records that involved the investigation into whether the homicide of the minor was justifiable.

The CPD did not produce the records and WMAQ filed suit, seeking disclosure of all reports filed in the matter. The circuit court ruled in WMAQ’s favor, holding that the JCA’s prohibitions against unauthorized disclosure did not apply to the records of the investigation of the conduct of the police officers involved in the shooting of the minor.

On appeal, CPD asserted that the plain language of the JCA prohibited the disclosure of the requested records because WMAQ did not obtain a court order, and because the records were confidential since the victim of the shooting was a minor.

The Appellate Court ruled in favor of WMAQ and ordered release of the records. The Court rejected the CPD’s interpretation of the JCA as too broad since the purpose of the JCA is to protect the privacy of minors and not to shield alleged misconduct of public employees from public view. The Court stated that WMAQ was not required to obtain a court order to review the records because the records related to the investigation of police officers and did not relate to “the investigation, arrest, or custodial detention” of the minor in this case - an essential basis for confidentiality under the JCA. Finally, the Court rejected the CPD’s argument that the records of the independent police review board were wholly exempt from disclosure because the Act was amended in 2009 to provide independent agencies who investigate police conduct access to law enforcement records that relate to minors who have been investigated, arrested, or detained in custody.

Post Authored by Ashton Tunk & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

 

New Quorum Forum Podcast Episode Released: Nice Meeting U!


Ancel Glink's Quorum Forum Podcast Episode 28 was just released: Nice Meeting U!

In this episode, the Quorum Forum podcast is heading back to school at Nice Meeting University! Ancel Glink’s Stewart Diamond teaches us about rules for good local government meetings, while Ashton Tunk covers Open Meetings Act news. We also study hard seltzer consumers' claims of immunity from statutes and local ordinances, based on the theory "there ain't no laws when you're drinking claws." 

What tips do you have for good local government meetings? Email us at podcast@ancelglink.com!

This podcast is provided as a service to our public and private sector clients and friends. It is intended to provide timely general information of interest, but should not be considered a substitute for legal advice. Read our full disclaimer: ancelglink.com/disclaimers

 

Seventh Circuit Upholds Cook County's Assault Weapon Ban

Last week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Cook County, Illinois' assault weapon ban against a Second Amendment challenge. Wilson v. Cook County, (7th Cir., August 29, 2019).

In 2006, Cook County adopted an ordinance making it illegal to "manufacture, sell, offer or display for sale, give, lend, transfer ownership of, acquire, carry or possess" an assault weapon or large-capacity magazine in Cook County. Shortly after enactment of the ordinance, three county residents sued the county claiming that the ordinance violated various provisions of the U.S. constitution and exceeded the county's police powers. The Illinois Supreme Court dismissed most of these claims, but remanded the Second Amendment claim. The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case at that time.

In 2015, the City of Highland Park enacted its own ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines which was also challenged on constitutional grounds. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ordinance in 2015 in the case of Friedman v. City of Highland Park.

In 2017, two Cook County residents refiled their lawsuit against Cook County, including their previously dismissed due process and equal protection claims and the Second Amendment claim. The case was removed to federal court where it was dismissed by the district court. 

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the claims in light of its decision in the Friedman case involving the challenge to Highland Park's ordinance. The Seventh Circuit first noted that the Cook County ordinance was nearly identical to the Highland Park ordinance that the court had previously upheld. Second, the Court rejected the residents' argument that the Friedman case should be reconsidered, finding that its earlier ruling was still valid. Specifically, the Court determined that an assault weapons ban does not offend the Second Amendment because it does not leave residents without a means of self-defense. Third, the Court held that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Heller that struck down D.C.'s firearm ban, finding that an assault weapon ban is not "as sweeping as the complete handgun ban at issue in Heller." 

 

Illinois Adopts Single Occupancy Restroom Law

The Illinois General Assembly recently amended the Equitable Restrooms Act to address single-occupancy restrooms. P.A. 101-0165Effective January 1, 2020, all single-occupancy restrooms in any "place of public accommodations" and any "public building" must be identified as all-gender and marked with exterior signage that does not indicate any specific gender.  


This new law applies to "public buildings," which is not defined in this statute. It appears, however, that the new requirement will affect units of local government throughout the state that have single-occupancy restrooms in their government buildings. It is not clear whether the new requirements apply to all restrooms in a public building (including those in employee-only areas) or only to those restrooms that are made available to the public. We may get more clarity on how this law will be interpreted when administrative regulations are issued by the Department of Public Health, as required by the new law.


It is also important to note that this law is not restricted to only new construction or renovations, as indicated in section 20 of the new law. That means local governments should begin evaluating the need for modified or updated signage in their public buildings over the next few months to ensure compliance by January 1st.

The text of the new law is below:
    Section 5. The Equitable Restrooms Act is amended by changing Section 20 and adding Section 25 as follows:

 (410 ILCS 35/20)  (from Ch. 111 1/2, par. 3751-20)                    
    Sec. 20. Application. Except for Section 25, this This Act applies only to places of public accommodation that commence construction, or that commence alterations exceeding 50% of the entire place of public accommodation, after the effective date of this Act.

    (410 ILCS 35/25 new) 

    Sec. 25. All-gender single-occupancy restrooms. 
    (a) In this Section:
    "Place of public accommodation" has the same meaning provided in Section 5-101 of the Illinois Human Rights Act. 
    "Single-occupancy restroom" means a fully enclosed room, with a locking mechanism controlled by the user, containing a sink, toilet stall, and no more than one urinal.
    (b) This Section applies to any existing or future places of public accommodation or public buildings.
     (c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every single-occupancy restroom in a place of public accommodation or public building shall be identified as all-gender and designated for use by no more than one person at a time or for family or assisted use. Each single-occupancy restroom shall be outfitted with exterior signage that marks the single-occupancy restroom as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender. 
    (d) During any inspection of a place of public accommodation or public building by a health officer or health inspector, the health officer or health inspector may inspect the place of public accommodation or public building to determine whether it complies with this Section.  
    (e) The Department of Public Health shall adopt rules to implement this Section.


Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect January 1, 2020.                   


       
 

Open Meetings Act "Personnel" Exemption Expanded

HB 2124 (proposing amendments to the Open Meetings Act) became effective last Friday. That legislation amends the OMA to allow a public body to go into closed session to discuss the hiring, firing, compensation, discipline, and complaints against specific individuals who serve as independent contractors in a park, recreational, or educational setting and specific volunteers under the "personnel" exemption under the OMA. 

Public bodies should remember that the PAC office of the Illinois Attorney General expects that public bodies using this exemption to go into closed session provide more detail in their motion that simply stating "personnel exemption." While the motion need not name the individual, it should provide a bit more detail, such as why the individual will be discussed (i.e., hiring, termination, etc).