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Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union 130, U.A. v. Department of Public Health

December 21, 2001

CHICAGO JOURNEYMEN PLUMBERS' LOCAL UNION 130, U.A., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, AND JOHN LUMPKIN, AS DIRECTOR, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

UNPUBLISHED

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Ellis E. Reid Judge Presiding.

Plaintiff, Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union 130, U.A. (Union), brought this complaint for relief pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (Act) (5 ILCS 140/1 et al. (West 2000)). Plaintiff requested that the defendants, the Illinois Department of Public Health and its director, John Lumpkin (Department), disclose the names and addresses of all individuals that the Department had licensed as plumbers and apprentice plumbers. The Department replied that it would release the names of all licensed plumbers and plumbing apprentices, but that it would not release their home addresses. The Department claimed that the home addresses of the licensed plumbers constituted "personal information" specifically exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (Act).

The trial court concluded that under the reasoning of Lieber v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University , 176 Ill. 2d 401 (1997), home addresses did not constitute "personal information" exempt from disclosure under the Act and granted the Union's motion for summary judgment. The Department appeals from that order and argues that the home addresses of licensed plumbers and apprentice plumbers are exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Act. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

In October 1999, the Union requested the names and addresses of all plumbers and plumbing apprentices licensed in the state of Illinois. The Department replied that it maintained home addresses of licensed plumbers and plumbing apprentices, but that it did not maintain their business addresses. Relying on section 7(1)(b)(iii) (5 ILCS 140/7(1)(b)(iii) (West 2000)) of the Act, the Department took the position that this information constituted personal information exempt from disclosure under the Act and for that reason denied the Union's request regarding the addresses. The Department, however, offered to provide a list to the Union of the names of all licensed plumbers and apprentice plumbers. The Union then filed an appeal with the Department. In this appeal, the Union limited its request to the names and addresses of licensed plumbers and plumbing apprentices in Cook and Will Counties. The Department did not respond to the Union's appeal.

On March 27, 2000, the Union filed a verified complaint under the Act. The Union alleged that the "home mailing addresses of plumbers and apprentice plumbers licensed in Illinois by the [Department] do not constitute exempt personal information about licensed plumbers or apprentice plumbers." The Union sought injunctive relief directing the Department to release the names and mailing addresses of licensed plumbers and apprentice plumbers in Will and Cook Counties. The Department answered the complaint and asserted section 7(1)(b)(iii) of the Act as an affirmative defense. The Department claimed that the addresses of licensed plumbers fall within a per se exemption under the Act and are not required to be disclosed under the terms of the Act.

The Union moved for summary judgment. Relying on Lieber v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, 176 Ill. 2d 401(1997), the Union argued that the Act required the Department to disclose the names and addresses of licensed plumbers and apprentice plumbers. In response, the Department filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. Consistent with its affirmative defense, the Department argued that the requested addresses constituted "personal information" and the addresses were exempt from disclosure under section 7(1)(b)(iii) of the Act. The Department also claimed that the Union was seeking information for a commercial purpose. The trial court found that Lieber controlled, granted the Union's motion for summary judgment, and denied the Department's motion for summary judgment. This appeal followed.

ANALYSIS

Summary judgment shall only be granted if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions, together with the affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2000). We review the trial court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Anderson v. Alberto-Culver USA, Inc., 317 Ill. App. 3d 1104, 1110 (2000).

The Act implements the public policy of this state to provide its citizens with full access to information regarding the affairs of government. 5 ILCS 140/1 (West 2000); Lieber, 176 Ill. 2d at 407. Under the Act public records are presumed to be open and accessible. Lieber, 176 Ill. 2d at 407. Upon receiving a proper request for information, a public body must comply with that request unless one of the exemptions apply under the Act. 5 ILCS 140/7 (West 2000); American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) v. County of Cook, 136 Ill. 2d 334, 341 (1990). If the public body denies disclosure under an exemption within section 7, it must provide written notice of which exemption it is invoking. 5 ILCS 140/9(b) (West 2000). If the party seeking disclosure challenges the public body's decision in the circuit court, "the public body has the burden of proving that the records in question fall within the exemption it has claimed." Lieber, 176 Ill. 2d at 408.

Section 7(1) of the Act provides, in part, the following exemptions to the disclosure requirements of the Act:

"(1) The following shall be exempt from ...


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