Judicial Watch v. Office of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich (No. 07-CH-1306)
Judicial Watch filed an open records lawsuit against the office of Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), who is under federal investigation on several fronts, including corrupt hiring practices. Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed on January 16, 2007 in the Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court, specifically seeks, among other documents, any and all grand jury subpoenas received by the Governor’s office or any state agencies under the Governor’s control. The subpoenas reportedly were issued by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office.Governor Blagojevich’s office refuses to release the subpoenas, claiming they are exempt from public disclosure. In a letter to Judicial Watch dated December 7, 2006, Allison Benway, Legal Counsel for Governor Blagojevich stated, “This Office cannot confirm or deny the existence of the documents requested, and even if this Office were to have documents responsive to your request, such documents would be exempt from release…”However, according to an October 26, 2006 letter obtained by Judicial Watch from Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the grand jury subpoenas are documents subject to public disclosure. “Based upon the information with which we have been furnished, the exceptions to the disclosure requirements of the [Freedom of Information] Act cited by the Governor’s office do not authorize the withholding of subpoenas. Without legal support, the Office of the Governor and the agencies under his control cannot withhold Federal grand jury subpoenas in their possession and must release these documents pursuant to a FOIA request.””There is an air of lawlessness in how the Governor Blagojevich is handling this document request. He ought to listen to the advice of the state’s top legal officer and release these documents,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The citizens of Illinois have a right to know the full details related to alleged corruption in the Governor’s office.”Judicial Watch filed its original Freedom of Information Act request on November 27, 2006. Following a December 7 denial of the request from the Governor’s office, Judicial Watch filed an administrative appeal on December 18, 2006. After receiving no response to its appeal, Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit on January 16, 2007.
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