U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena issued for Illinois-based government watchdog’s communications

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 19, 2019

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of the subpoena for communications from Edgar County Watchdogs.

May 31, 2024 - Update

Illinois watchdog blog partly complies with subpoena

The Illinois-based news outlet Edgar County Watchdogs partially complied with a subpoena for communications and documents from former College of DuPage President Robert Breuder in his wrongful termination suit against the college, Watchdogs co-founder John Kraft told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker by email in May 2024.

In February 2019, Breuder subpoenaed the government watchdog blog for communications between its co-founders and various media outlets and the board of the college, as well as for copies of and records received from relevant Freedom of Information Act requests it had filed.

Kraft told the Tracker that the Watchdogs first objected to the subpoena, then produced only records they had handed over in a separate suit brought by a former College of DuPage contractor, who sued the outlet in 2015, claiming the articles it had published about contracts awarded to her company were defamatory. That suit is ongoing.

No new records were produced in response to Breuder’s subpoena, Kraft told the Tracker. Of the records it produced, he said, “We believe they would have got copies from the contractor anyway.”

February 19, 2019

Illinois-based government watchdog blog Edgar County Watchdogs has been subpoenaed for communications and documents relating to articles involving College of DuPage, a community college in Illinois.

As part of a civil lawsuit brought by former College of DuPage president Robert Breuder against the college, the Feb. 19, 2019, subpoena ordered Edgar County Watchdogs to produce communications between co-founders of the group, Kirk Allen and John Kraft, and numerous other entities including news organizations the Daily Herald and Chicago Tribune. It also orders the group to turn over copies of relevant Freedom of Information Act requests and records received.

“We wrote a lot of articles on the College DuPage and the former president and contractors, as well as change orders that were made without proper board approval and crazy expenses by the college president,” Kraft told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “[Breuder] is suing the board members of the college for various civil rights violations, like his age and alleging lack of due process. They are working through discovery, and they’re trying to get communications between us, the board of the college, and various media outlets.”

Kraft noted that the FOIA requests and responsive records — which comprise thousands of pages — are already public records, so it isn’t necessary to order the group to produce them. “They can get them from the college,” he said.

The subpoena ordered the documents produced by April 1, but Kraft said that with the help of the group’s attorney, government transparency and media lawyer Matt Topic, they had secured an extension on compliance.

Topic confirmed that the group was granted an extension until May 1 to respond to the subpoena, and that that they will be opposing the order.

“[The subpoena] makes us spend time, money, and effort fighting this, instead of writing like we should be doing,” Kraft said.

Attorneys for Breuder did not immediately respond to request for comment.

In an unrelated case, Edgar County Watchdogs received a subpoena on Jan. 23 for information relating to the group’s Dropbox. The motion to quash that subpoena was granted on Feb. 11.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].