First Amendment, Media, & Transparency
Loevy + Loevy is a national leader in litigating First Amendment, transparency, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), defamation, and open governance lawsuits. We’ve represented scores of journalists, activists, and media outlets to hold government institutions accountable.
Experienced First Amendment Attorneys
Our unwavering commitment to transparency is evidenced by our landmark cases which have established favorable law and ensured public figures and entities operate with the transparency mandated by law.
Our legal victories include forcing the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to publicly release video footage showing CPD officers shooting Laquan McDonald, compelling the Justice Department to remove redactions from the Mueller Report, forcing the Chicago City Council to allow public comment on meetings, among many others.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Access to Court Records
Loevy + Loevy is highly experienced in litigating Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suits in Illinois and around the country. We have litigated hundreds of cases against federal agencies (including the DOJ, FBI, CIA, State Department, FCC, FDA, Defense Department, Homeland Security, and others), the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, Cook County, the Cook County State’s Attorney and State’s Attorneys around the state, school districts, and other municipalities and units of government at all levels and throughout Illinois. In some instances, we also handle state-court records litigation in other jurisdictions, and we handle federal cases anywhere in the country.
Our clients range from major national, local, and international news organizations, freelance journalists, documentarians, and podcasters to advocacy organizations, concerned individuals seeking to better participate in their local democracies, and businesses looking for information to help them compete.
In the words of none other than Richard Nixon, “When information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them, and eventually incapable of determining their own destinies.” We’d like to think of those words as a warning, but too often government officials apparently see them as a playbook.
Open Meetings and Right to Petition
Both state law and the U.S. Constitution guarantee the right to observe and speak and public meetings. We have litigated a number of cases in this area, and among other results, we have:
- Forced the Chicago City Council to allow public comment at all City Council meetings after decades of violations
- Defended a local parent in suit by school board seeking to bar him from attending future school board meetings, resulting in injunctive relief and damages for our client, and sanctions against the school board who filed suit
Reporter’s Privilege/Subpoena Defense
A free press is essential to holding the powerful accountable and preserving democracy. Unfortunately, reporters are all too often hauled into court and asked to disclose their sources. We have represented a number of journalists facing subpoenas, and have never had a client forced to reveal a source. Our successes include:
- Frequently persuading subpoena issuers to reporters to abandon their subpoenas without the need for litigation
- Quashed subpoena to journalist Jamie Kalven seeking disclosure of sources regarding the Laquan McDonald shooting, including extensive briefing and live hearing in which attorneys for Jason Van Dyke attempted to argue Kalven was not a reporter
- Quashed subpoena for journalist’s phone records brought by far-right activists
Free Speech and Free Press
Our nation is built upon a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” – Justice William Brennan. Our successes in upholding free speech rights include:
- Represented journalists attacked by Chicago police officers while covering 2020 protests
- Represented Prison Legal News in censorship suits against jails
- Defeated efforts to impose gag order on counsel in high-profile medical malpractice and false advertising case
- Represented university professor in First Amendment case over tweets regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict
While defamation and similar suits are too often used as weapons against free speech, Loevy + Loevy has experience fighting back. Our experience includes:
- Currently representing local blogger in defamation suit
- Currently representing non-profit organization in counterclaims for false advertising brought against client’s FOIA suit against University of Illinois
Please note that in addition to insurance coverage through professional media insurance, coverage may sometimes be found in homeowners, renters, or umbrella policies. If you’ve been sued for defamation or threatened with suit, check your policies right away, as many have strict provisions requiring prompt notification of a claim.
Moser sues Mayor Johnson’s Office for Ignoring Simple FOIA Request for Email Log
Court awards civil penalties against Chicago Department of Transportation
The Circuit Court of Cook County recently assessed civil penalties of $5000 against the Chicago Department of Transportation for failing to respond to the request on time and failing to conduct a proper search for records until it was sued. Noncompliance with FOIA is a serious problem in Chicago, and these penalties are the only tool the General Assembly has made available to punish willful violations. Kennedy v. Chicago Department of Transportation, 22 CH 2446.
Cato Sues FBI for Failure to Locate Their Own Record Organization Policy
This week, we filed suit against the FBI on behalf of Cato Institute for records outlining how FBI field offices organize their records, which FBI claims would be too hard for it to locate even though they are required under a specific FBI policy.
Read the complaint here.
Tobias sues Mayor Johnson’s Office over Texts with Head of Teacher’s Union
Today we filed suit against the Chicago Mayor’s Office on behalf of Jimmy Tobias for refusing to answer a FOIA request for text messages between Mayor Brandon Johnson and the head of the Chicago Teachers Union.
Read the complaint here.
Government Accountability Project sues EPA over East Palestine, OH train derailment disaster
Yesterday, Loevy + Loevy filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of our client, the Government Accountability Project (GAP), denying expedited processing and a fee waiver for GAP’s FOIA request related to the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment disaster. The FOIA requested data and communications on dioxins and other chemicals spilled and burned during the derailment. In the 46 years GAP has existed, the organization has never been turned down for a fee waiver.
In its FOIA, GAP maintained that a \”lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life and physical safety of thousands of residents in East Palestine and neighboring communities that may be exposed to dangerous dioxins in the air, water, soil and in the dust in their homes following the burning of vinyl chloride and other chemicals.
GAP has launched its own investigation into the EPA’s disaster response in East Palestine: “If you are sick, if your children are sick, we want to hear from you.”
Read the full legal complaint filed by Loevy + Loevy attorneys Tara Thompson and Matt Topic here.
- Forced Chicago Police Department to release Laquan McDonald and Ronald Johnson III shooting videos
- Forced the Justice Department to remove redactions to the Mueller Report in which both Justice and Special Counsel Mueller attempted to keep secret the reasons for not charging Donald Trump Jr. with any crimes
- Forced both the Mayor of the City of Chicago and the Governor of the State of Illinois to release so-called “private” emails related to public business
- Forced FBI to release records about a corrupt CPD officer who had testified against our client in his criminal case, ultimately assisting our client in obtaining his exoneration
- Forced the release of video played at trial through First Amendment right of access to court records
- Forced Chicago Police Department, Chicago Public Schools, and other public bodies to address widespread problems with untimely FOIA responses
- Forced Village of Rosemont to release financial terms of its entertainment venue leases and defeated argument that home-rule units of local government can create new bases to withhold records under local ordinances
- Forced Chicago Transit Authority to release extensive records regarding the Ventra bidding process
- Established favorable law at the Illinois Supreme Court on access to records when government privatizes its functions
- Established favorable law on use of records obtained under FOIA to pursue False Claims Act cases on behalf of defrauded units of government
- Forced Chicago Police Department to release years of records showing allegations of misconduct by officers (commonly known as “CR files”)
- Forced Chicago Police Department to release records showing acquisition and use of “stingray” surveillance equipment
- Forced a Cook County municipality to produce years of emails, and forced Chicago Police Department to release years of files from fatal officer involved shootings, after waiving the “undue burden” exemption through failure to respond to the applicable FOIA request
- Overturned an Attorney General opinion that allowed a public body to lock an electronic document based on a “fear of manipulation”
- Forced Chicago Police Department to conduct more thorough searches for records relevant to potential exoneration claims by people who may have been wrongfully convicted
- Forced release of state grand jury subpoena over the objection of the Cook County State’s Attorney
- Reached long-term settlement agreement to resolve question of whether individuals using public records on social media qualified as news media for FOIA purposes
- Forced public pension plan to release gift and perk information
- Forced school district to produce settlement agreement wrongfully withheld on the basis of confidentiality provision