Post Kalven Wherein CR Files Made Available to Public, Judge Takes Middle Ground Limiting Access

As we all know by now, the Illinois Appellate Court recently issued a highly controversial ruling when it held that CR files were public record under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Kalven v. City of Chicago 2014 Ill App (1st) 121846. Last week, a federal judge staked out the middle ground in a dispute over access to citizen complaints made against three Chicago police officers.

In a written opinion in the case Jacobs v. City of Chicago, et al., No. 14 C 5335, US Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim rejected the plaintiff Jacob’s argument that she is entitled to see the entire contents of the so-called CR files concerning the officers. However, Kim also rejected the City’s argument that the only information in CR files open to the public is the final outcome of any case that resulted in disciplinary action against the officer. The judge held that a court should balance the interests at stake in determining what information may be disseminated and what information should be designated as confidential. In this case, Kim ruled that the CR files should be redacted prior to public release in order to shield information of a “personal, private, sensitive or nonpublic nature.” Furthermore, Kim made clear that limiting access to only files with “final outcomes” was unjustified; however, the court held that “wholesale release of entire CR files to the public would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and could cause unnecessary annoyance or embarrassment.”

This ruling represents one of the first since the First District Appellate Court made its ruling in Kalven. Magistrate Kim essentially split the baby in his ruling vis a vis Kalven. It will be interesting to see how other courts interpret the ruling in Kalvin. At the very least, the ruling by magistrate Kim suggests that a wholesale public release of CR files goes too far. This is a sliver of good news for police officers throughout this state, something that is been desperately lacking for law enforcement the past several months.