A unanimous Illinois Supreme Court ruling yesterday in a case called Chapman v. Chicago reverses a lower court’s ruling and blocks plaintiff Matt Chapman’s open records request for information from the City of Chicago’s Department of Finance. The court’s ruling undermines the public’s right to know about the workings of government and is a threat to research, journalism and the public interest.
Matt Topic, a lawyer for the plaintiff stated: “No purpose is served by withholding technical information from the public when no harm will come from its release, and it is critically important that researchers, journalists, and others have robust access to non-identifying information about government databases. For that reason, similar information about federal databases is publicly available on a federal website. The General Assembly should follow suit and amend this exemption to ensure public access unless a harm can be demonstrated from its release.” Topic is an expert in Freedom of Information Act law and serves as BGA Outside General Counsel.
Chapman’s public records request sought an index of tables and columns from a City of Chicago Department of Finance database. Database indexes such as the one sought by Chapman’s request are used to query and sort specific subsets of information from large databases, and are a fundamental tool of data analysis and management.
You can read the full Chapman v. Chicago Supreme Court Opinion here: https://ilcourtsaudio.blob.core.windows.net/antilles-resources/resources/67164469-bcbd-4f13-9e42-be55df06048f/Chapman%20v.%20Chicago%20Department%20of%20Finance,%202023%20IL%20128300.pdf
You can read the full Better Government opinion here: https://www.bettergov.org/2023/05/19/better-government-association-statement-supreme-court-foia-ruling-limits-transparency-significantly-broadens-exemptions-to-foia/