Seventh Circuit Review


In City of Chicago v. United States Department of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (“ATF”), the Seventh Circuit held that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 effectively ended the long running debate over the issue of whether the contents of the Firearms Trace System databases, which the City of Chicago had requested from ATF and believed it was entitled to under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), could be disclosed to the public. After the passage of several riders contained within federal appropriations legislation precluding the use of federal funding to retrieve the requested data, and two prior Seventh Circuit decisions holding that the City nonetheless had a right to access the data, the court interpreted the 2005 rider as cutting off all access to the databases in question from the public. The court’s unwavering focus on the apparent intent of Congress in passing the 2005 rider clouded its interpretation of the actual text and structure of the rider and resulted in an unwarranted substantive change in FOIA.

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