Godfrey firm awarded fees in its FOIA suit over land appraisal

Steve Korris Mar. 2, 2010, 1:38am


Madison County Associate Judge Clarence Harrison ordered the village of Godfrey to pay the law firm of John Stobbs $18,300 for a successful freedom of information suit.

Stobbs had asked Harrison for $36,670.27 in fees and costs, but in a Feb. 17 order Harrison sliced the amount in half and rounded it off.

The firm, Stobbs and Sinclair, sued Godfrey to force disclosure of an appraisal that village officials obtained when buying land for a highway.

Associate Judge Thomas Chapman ruled in Godfrey's favor, but last year Fifth District appeals judges in Mount Vernon reversed Chapman.

They ruled that village officials waived confidentiality under the Freedom of Information Act by discussing the appraisal at a public meeting.

The case returned to Madison County and passed to Harrison because Chief Judge Ann Callis had reassigned judges.

Harrison granted summary judgment to the firm and wrote that the information request served the public interest and the public policy of governmental transparency.

He declared Stobbs's fee statement reasonable, but added that courts are cautioned not to treat fees as reward or punishment.

"The purpose of the fee provision is to remove the burden of attorney's fees which would deter pursuing FOIA enforcement," he wrote.

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