City of Chicago Breaches Freedom of Information Act

Lawsuits result in compensations of hundreds of thousands of dollars between 2010 and 2016.

M. Grace Rittenhouse
1 min readSep 26, 2022


The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that allows public citizens access government documents by request. Government agencies can deny these applications, but appeals can be made against this decision. If the ruling decides that access should have been granted, payouts may be applicable.

The City of Chicago has faced allegations that this right was violated or not observed. Over the years, the payouts of these cases have maintained amounts below $100,000.

In 2016, however, 27 cases were filed against the city for violations of FOIA and the payouts totaled $670,122. 19 of these cases are related to the Chicago Police Department and the most expensive payout from 2016 involved information tied to the death of Laquan McDonald.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel was especially criticized for his narrative of the lawsuits especially after running on a platform of transparency. The City of Chicago paid 20 times more in FOIA violation payouts in 2016 than the previous year. $96,275 of this total was used to settle a FOIA lawsuit involving Mayor Emanuel’s personal emails.

The following chart depicts the dollar amounts that the City of Chicago has paid out in FOIA cases from the years 2010 to 2016.

To file your own FOIA request, visit