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Crocker v. Finley

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 1, 1984.

JANICE MARIE CROCKER, APPELLEE,

v.

MORGAN M. FINLEY ET AL., APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Joseph M. Wosik, Judge, presiding.

CHIEF JUSTICE RYAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Janice Marie Crocker, brought this class action in January 1982 against several Cook County officers to challenge the validity of sections 27.1(a)(3) and 27.2(1)(d) of "An Act to revise the law in relation to clerks of courts>" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 25, par. 27.1(a)(3); Ill. Rev. Stat., 1982 Supp., ch. 25, par. 27.2(1)(d)). As amended by Public Act 82-645, effective January 1, 1982, these provisions require clerks of the circuit courts> to collect a special $5 filing fee from petitioners for dissolution of marriage. The $5 fee, which is paid in addition to regular filing fees, is collected to fund shelters and other services for victims of domestic violence in Illinois. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, pars. 2401-2403; Ill. Rev. Stat., 1982 Supp., ch. 40, par. 2403.1.

As a petitioner for dissolution of marriage, plaintiff paid the $5 fee under protest. She then brought this suit in the circuit court of Cook County, naming as defendants the clerk of that court, his chief deputy in the domestic relations division, and the county treasurer. Plaintiff charged that the fee statute contravenes numerous provisions of the Federal and State constitutions. She requested the court to declare the statute invalid, to enjoin collection of the fee, and to restrain the clerk from transferring to the county treasurer the fees already collected.

Upon plaintiff's motion, the trial court ordered the clerk to segregate all $5 fees collected from dissolution-of-marriage petitioners. The order directed the clerk to deposit the fees into interest-bearing accounts to be entitled the "Domestic Violence Special Protest Fund." The court appointed a trustee to supervise the fund, and it temporarily restrained the clerk and his deputies from transferring the fees to the county treasurer.

The following parties then requested and were granted leave to intervene: The People of the State of Illinois and Susan Catania, chairperson of the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women (represented by Illinois Attorney General Neil F. Hartigan); the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network and the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. After denying defendants' and intervenors' motions to dismiss, the court granted plaintiff's motion to define and certify a class. The classes certified consist of a State class — all persons in the State of Illinois who petitioned for dissolution of marriage on or after January 1, 1982, and paid the $5 fee — and a similar subclass consisting only of Cook County petitioners.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court ruled in plaintiffs' favor on all issues of the complaint. The court reaffirmed the conclusions that it had set out in a memorandum of decision issued when it denied the motions to dismiss. It held that the fee statute contravenes the due process and equal protection guarantees contained in the United States and Illinois constitutions; that the statute constitutes special legislation in violation of article IV, section 13, of the Illinois Constitution; and that the fee infringes upon the right to obtain justice freely which is secured by article I, section 12, of the Illinois Constitution. Accordingly, the trial court ordered the trustee to present a plan of refund to the class. Aware that the defendants and intervenors planned to appeal, the court stayed its judgment and the implementing orders pending appeal.

Defendants and intervenors contend that the fee statute comports in all respects with the Federal and State constitutions. From the order granting plaintiffs' counter-motion for summary judgment, they appealed directly to this court pursuant to our Rule 302(a)(1). 87 Ill.2d R. 302(a)(1).

The provisions imposing the challenged $5 fee are one facet of a statutory scheme designed to combat domestic violence in this State. Enacted in 1981, the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, pars. 2301-1 to 2303-5) recognizes domestic violence as a serious crime against victims who are unable to effectively protect themselves. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, pars. 2301-2(1), (2).) With this Act, the legislature sought to expand the civil and criminal remedies available to victims, and to provide law enforcement officers with tools for prompt assistance. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, pars. 2301-2(3), (4).

To supplement the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, the legislature passed "An Act in relation to domestic relations and domestic violence shelters and service programs." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, pars. 2305-1 to 2403; Ill. Rev. Stat., 1982 Supp., ch. 40, par. 2403.1.) This Act authorizes the Department of Public Aid to "administer domestic violence shelters and service programs * * * for adults and their dependents who are the subjects of domestic violence." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, par. 2402.) The shelters thus established are intended to provide "temporary residential facilities to family or household members who are victims of domestic violence and their children." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, par. 2401(c).

This Act directs the Department of Public Aid to finance the shelters and service programs by allotting monies from the Domestic Violence Shelter and Service Fund. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 40, par. 2403.) It is to support this fund that the $5 fees, at issue in the case at bar, are collected. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 25, pars. 27.1(a)(3), 27.2(1)(c).) As another source of revenue, the fund receives proceeds from a special $10 fee charged by county clerks for each marriage license issued. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 53, pars. 35, 73.

To implement this funding process with respect to the fee imposed on dissolution-of-marriage petitioners, the legislature amended "An Act to revise the law in relation to clerks of courts>." As amended, the Act now imposes the $5 fee that plaintiffs challenge in this action:

"Sec. 27.1. The fees of the Clerk of the Circuit Court in all counties having a population of 1,000,000 inhabitants or ...


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