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Illinois Education Association v. Illinois State Board of Education

January 24, 2002

ILLINOIS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, AN ILLINOIS NOT FOR PROFIT CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 00MR567 Honorable Thomas R. Appleton, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McCULLOUGH

PUBLISHED

On August 24, 2000, plaintiff, the Illinois Education Association (Association), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Sangamon County against defendant, the Illinois State Board of Education (Board), seeking a declaratory judgment that the Association was entitled to certain documents from the Board under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 ILCS 140/1 through 11 (West 1998)). The Association and the Board filed motions for summary judgment. On February 13, 2001, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the Board. We affirm.

On July 17, 2000, the Association delivered to the Board a "Freedom of Information Act Request." The Association sought the disclosure of documents that the Board provided to the Illinois Attorney General (Attorney General) in the course of requesting four Attorney General opinions.

Paragraph 1 of the Association's request sought:

"Any and all materials provided to the Illinois Attorney General's Office by the Illinois State Board of Education with regard to its request for an Attorney General's opinion on the issue of whether Local Professional Development Committees and/or Regional Professional Development Review Committees are subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act."

The requested materials comprised a letter directed to Attorney General Jim Ryan from Michael J. Hernandez, then general counsel to the Board. The letter requested an opinion from the Attorney General as to three questions regarding local professional development committees and regional professional development review committees. The Board denied the Association access to the materials pursuant to section 7(1)(n) of the FOIA, "which exempts from disclosure communications between an attorney and a public body that would not be subject to discovery in litigation." Subsequent to the release of the Attorney General's opinion in response to the Board's request, the Board no longer claimed privilege with respect to the materials requested in paragraph 1 of the Association's request.

Paragraph 2 of the Association's request sought:

"Any and all materials provided to the Illinois Attorney General's Office by the Illinois State Board of Education with regard to its request for an Attorney General's opinion on the issue of whether the Illinois State Board of Education can require current teaching certificate holders who apply to exchange their existing certificate for a new Standard Teaching Certificate to answer certain specific questions."

The requested materials did not exist. The Board offered that "no such request for an opinion of the Attorney General was made."

Paragraph 3 of the Association's request sought:

"Any and all materials provided to the Illinois Attorney General's Office by the Illinois State Board of Education with regard to its request for an Attorney General's opinion on the issue of whether the Illinois State Board of Education can require applicants who apply for a new teaching certificate or for renewal of an existing teaching certificate to answer certain specific questions on their application."

The requested materials comprised a letter directed to Attorney General Jim Ryan from Harry A. Blackburn, then acting general counsel to the Board. The letter requested an opinion from the Attorney General as to whether the questions asked of applicants for teaching certificates may be asked when a certificate is renewed. The Board denied the Association access to the materials pursuant to section 7(1)(n) of the FOIA, "which exempts from disclosure communications between an attorney and a public body that would not be subject to discovery in litigation." Subsequent to the release of the Attorney General's opinion ...


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