An Illinois state prosecutor is refusing to allow public access to search warrants and related documents, despite an opinion from the state attorney general making clear that the documents are public records, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.
In a 2007 opinion, Attorney General Lisa Madigan advised state prosecutors to allow public access to warrants and related documents once the search is completed, unless particular circumstances in the case require secrecy. Madigan wrote that “once the search warrant has been returned to court, these records are open to public inspection and dissemination unless the court enters an order specifically providing otherwise.”
But St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida said he had no plans to immediately allow public access to the files, which are currently kept secret. Though some other counties opened their records in the wake of Madigan’s opinion, Haida told the News-Democrat he would wait until he found a way to allow access while protecting informants. “I want to be sure before the files are unsealed that there still is no potential harm to confidential informants,” he said.
Haida’s decision has drawn criticism from transparency advocates.
“Over the years, police officers and prosecutors have gotten used to doing these things in secret, so they may be afraid to let the public see what’s been happening behind closed doors,” Don Craven, a Springfield-based media layer who represents the Illinois Press Association, told the News-Democrat.