from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will
County, Illinois, Circuit Nos. 15-CH-976, 15-CH-1052,
16-MR-2527 Honorable Arkadiusz Z. Smigielski, Judge,
JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Holdridge and Lytton concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff, Charles Bocock, was a pretrial detainee at the
Will County Adult Detention Facility (WCADF) during 2015 and
2016. During this time period, plaintiff requested numerous
records from WCADF through the Illinois Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq. (West
2014)). The WCADF did not comply with plaintiffs various
requests for information. Those denials resulted in three
separate lawsuits filed by plaintiff against the Will County
Sheriff (defendant). Plaintiff now appeals the adverse ruling
in all three cases and the three separate appeals have now
been consolidated for purposes of this appeal. We affirm in
part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.
3 I. Plaintiff's First Complaint
4 On April 10, 2015, plaintiff filed a complaint, followed by
an amended complaint (first amended complaint) on June 23,
2015, in Will County case No. 15-CH-976. The first amended
complaint alleged defendant improperly denied five FOIA
requests initiated by plaintiff. The first amended complaint
contained five counts-tracking the original five FOIA
requests-with each count seeking both an injunction
compelling defendant to produce the requested documents and
civil penalties for the alleged willful and intentional
failure to comply with FOIA. Count V of plaintiff's first
amended complaint is the only count relevant to this
consolidated appeal. In count V, plaintiff alleged he filed a
FOIA request on March 22, 2015, seeking "Documentation
showing the brand, product name, ingredients, nutrition
information, expiration / best by date of the milk drink
served on the morning of 3/21/15." Plaintiff alleged he
received the following response to his request:
"The [WCADF] Food Service personnel have advised that
the milk drink served on 3/21/15 was a commodity and there
was only enough for one meal. Food Service personnel have
checked all of the commodities and determined that they no
longer possess any of the product or any labeling or product
information from the milk drink."
further alleged defendant failed to "search any of its
garbage or trash receptacles or Dumpsters for remaining
containers from the milk drink."
5 Defendant filed a motion to dismiss count V of
plaintiff's first amended complaint on two grounds.
First, defendant claimed that a used milk container did not
qualify as a public record and could "more accurately
[be] defined as refuse or garbage, as they are part of food
items served to pre-trial detainees at the facility."
Alternatively, even if the refuse could be considered a
public record, defendant argued that "[c]ombing through
days old garbage *** would impose undue burden."
6 Plaintiff filed a reply to defendant's motion to
dismiss. In his reply, plaintiff stated that the milk
container was on WCADF premises at the time of his FOIA
request, albeit in the garbage. In addition, plaintiff
conceded that the packaging for the used milk carton was no
longer in defendant's possession, mooting his request for
7 Following a hearing held on February 11, 2016, the circuit
court dismissed count V of plaintiff's first amended
complaint, finding that the milk container was not a public
record. However, the court denied defendant's motion to
dismiss, in part, and ordered defendant to answer the first
three counts of plaintiff's first amended complaint.
8 II. Plaintiff's Second Complaint
9 Plaintiff filed a separate 11-count complaint (second
complaint) on June 23, 2015, Will County case No. 15-CH-1052,
pertaining to the denial of previous FOIA requests made by
plaintiff for records that were unrelated to those records
relevant to the pending lawsuit in Will County case No.
15-CH-976. Once again, plaintiff sought injunctive relief
compelling defendant to produce the requested documents, and
assess civil penalties against defendant on each count. It is
undisputed that defendant denied each of plaintiff's FOIA
10 The circuit court's rulings on counts VI, X, and XI
are the only rulings at issue in the present appeal. Count VI
of plaintiff's second complaint pertained to
plaintiff's FOIA request seeking a "List of all
lockdown dates/times/durations/reasons during March
2015" (lockdown documents). In Defendant's answer to
plaintiff's second complaint, defendant asserted the
records requested in count VI were exempt under FOIA, in that
giving an inmate information regarding lockdowns "would
present a danger to security within the WCADF." See
id. § 7(1)(e).
11 Count X of plaintiff's second complaint alleged
plaintiff made a FOIA request seeking "All documentation
(e.g. emails, grievances) regarding detainee
Christopher Conway's last/stolen books, including amount
paid in compensation for the loss" (Conway documents).
In the answer to count X, defendant asserted the requested
documents were exempt under FOIA (see id. §
7(1)(c)) in that disclosure to plaintiff would violate
Conway's privacy interest in his private personal
information. See id. § 7(1)(e).
12 Count XI of plaintiff's second complaint alleged
plaintiff made a FOIA request seeking a copy of the WCADF
"Policies and Procedures" manual (policy manual).
In the answer to count XI, defendant asserted the policy
manual was exempt for security purposes.
13 Furthermore, plaintiff alleged that after his request for
the policy manual was denied, plaintiff submitted the case to
the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor
for further review. See id. § 9.5(a) (proving
that a person whose FOIA request is denied may file a request
for review by the Public Access Counselor). After conducting
a confidential review of the manual, the Public Access
Counselor found that while certain portions of the policy
manual (often regarding the location of weapons or the intake
and movement of inmates) were exempt from FOIA and subject to
redaction, the policy manual as a whole was not exempt from
FOIA. The nonbinding determination letter prepared by the
Public Access Counselor concluded defendant should provide
plaintiff with the redacted policy manual, but declined to
issue a binding opinion. Defendant also admitted to the
existence and substance of the Public Access Counselor's
letter, but answered these allegations by observing the
letter was not intended to be binding.
14 In an order dated July 19, 2016, the court agreed to
review in camera documents pertaining to the dates
and times of lockdowns and documents pertaining to
WCADF's compensation for Conway's books. Defendant
also submitted a number of Bates-stamped documents for the
court's in camera review.
15 On July 22, 2016, the court entered an order that began:
"Cause comes on for entry of order consistent with the
court's ruling in open court on July 19, 2016." The
court ordered defendant to produce a list of the times and
dates of lockdowns occurring in March 2015, but ruled that
information relating to the reasons for or durations of the
lockdowns was exempt. The court ruled the Conway documents
exempt in full based on Conway's privacy interests and
plaintiff's lack of legitimate interest in the documents.
In an order dated July 27, 2016, with regard to the policy
manual, the court wrote: "Jail operations manual is
exempt in total, with exception of bates # 0-05." As