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Illinois Gov. Must Disclose Grand-Jury Subpoenas

(CN) - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich does not have the discretion to refuse a Freedom of Information Act request regarding federal grand jury subpoenas, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled.

The subpoenas sought the governor's records pursuant to a criminal investigation.

The Better Government Association and Dan Sprehe issued an FOIA request for the subpoenas in 2006, and the governor refused to grant them.

The trial court ruled in favor of the BGA, and Judge Steigmann affirmed the decision.

The judge was not swayed by the governor's argument that federal law prohibits him from disclosing the contents of the subpoenas, and that such an action could affect the government's investigation.

"Federal grand juries have been issuing subpoenas for 200 years," Steigmann ruled. "Yet during all this time, Congress has not seen fit to specifically restrict the behavior of subpoena recipients."

Steigmann wrote that the citizens' request went to the core of the FOIA.

"We are not surprised that governmental entities ... generally prefer not to reveal their activities to the public," the judge wrote. "If this were not a truism, no FOIA would be needed."

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