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January 27, 1994


Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 92MR201. Honorable Leo J. Zappa, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected March 16, 1994.

Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Green

JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court:

On July 9, 1992, plaintiff Harold Schessler filed a complaint in the circuit court of Sangamon County against defendant the Illinois Department of Conservation (Department) seeking (1) a declaratory judgment that he was entitled to certain information from the Department under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 116, par. 201 et seq.), and (2) a mandatory injunction requiring the Department to furnish the information. The cause was apparently heard upon an agreed statement of facts arising from memoranda submitted by the parties. After hearing arguments of the parties, the circuit court entered an order on April 12, 1993, requiring the Department to furnish the information. The Department has appealed. We affirm.

Section 1 of the Bird Shooting Act (Act) prohibited the shooting of birds for "sporting purposes or as a test of skill in marksmanship" without a permit from the Department. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 8, par. 111.1.) Section 2 of the Act empowered the Department to make rules and regulations for licensing and control of events where such shooting took place. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 8, par. 111.2.) The Act was repealed effective December 16, 1991. (Pub. Act 87-798, eff. Dec. 16, 1991 (1991 Ill. Laws 4392, 4403).) While in effect, the Act, together with regulations properly adopted, required that applications for permits for a live pigeon shoot must state (1) the name of the person or organization sponsoring the event, (2) the date of the proposed pigeon shoot, (3) the location of the event, and (4) the name of the owner of the property on which the pigeon shoot would be held. 17 Ill. Adm. Code § 970.20(b) (1991).

On May 11, 1992, plaintiff made a written request to the Department for copies of all applications for permits for live pigeon shoots issued by the Department after 1990. On May 18, 1992, the Department denied that request, maintaining that the information was exempt from the disclosure requirements of FOIA. Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Department Director, who denied the application. The instant litigation followed.

FOIA was enacted to provide all persons access to information regarding the affairs of the government and should be construed toward this end. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 116, par. 201.) FOIA is not, however, to be used to violate individual privacy, to further commercial enterprises, or to disrupt the duly-undertaken work of any public body. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 116, par. 201.) Section 7 of FOIA denotes when information is exempt from inspection or copying. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 116, par. 207.) Various types of information are set forth, including (1) that which is expressly prohibited from disclosure by State or Federal laws, (2) certain types of law enforcement information, (3) trade secrets, and (4) competitive bidding information, and other similar types of information. None of those exemptions are pertinent here.

The parties agree that if the information involved here is exempt, the exemption arises from section 7(b) of FOIA, which begins with the following:

"Information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the individual subjects of the information. The disclosure of information that bears on the public duties of public employees and officials shall not be considered an invasion of personal privacy. Information exempted under this subsection (b) shall include but is not limited to: * * *." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 116, par. 207(b).

This court has held that the specific categories of information listed after the foregoing statement as "information exempted" are per se exempt without considering the degree of invasion of privacy that might be involved or how unwarranted it might be. ( Healey v. Teachers Retirement System (1990), 200 Ill. App. 3d 240, 243, 558 N.E.2d 766, 768-70; Staske v. City of Champaign (1989), 183 Ill. App. 3d 1, 5, 539 N.E.2d 747, 750.) Other courts have held that the enumerated categories in sub-subsections of section 7(b) do not create per se exemptions, but in each case the court must balance the privacy aspect with the public interest in disclosure in order to determine whether a "clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy" actually occurs. (Blumenfeld, Ltd. v. Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (Jan. 19, 1993, 1st Dist. Gen. No. 1-91-1876, slip op. at 5-6), Ill. App. 3d , , N.E.2d , , 1993 Ill. App. LEXIS 36; Margolis v. Director of the Department of Revenue (1989), 180 Ill. App. 3d 1084, 1089, 536 N.E.2d 827, 829-30.) We need not consider this difference in this case, because we are satisfied that the records involved here do not fit any of the specific categories of section 7(b).

Section 7(b)(iii) of FOIA sets forth, as a category of property covered by section 7(b), the following:

"files and personal information maintained with respect to any applicant, registrant or licensee by any public body cooperating with or engaged in professional or occupational ...

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