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Schacht v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

June 16, 2015

MARK J. SCHACHT, M.D., Individually and as a Taxpayer and/or on Behalf of Recipients of Fees to be Used to Finance Various Court Programs Within the Circuit Court of Cook County; JOHN DOE 1, JOHN DOE 2, JOHN DOE 3, and JOHN DOE 4, Individuals Who Were Formerly Subject to the Juvenile Justice System in Cook County and Who Were Denied the Benefit of Various Programs Intended to Provide Them With Relief, and on Behalf of all Cook County Taxpayers, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
DOROTHY BROWN, Not Individually But as Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, TIMOTHY C. EVANS, Not Individually But as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and the COUNTY OF COOK, a Body Politic, Defendants-Appellees

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 L 50579. Honorable Thomas Allen, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

For Appellants: Law Office of Alan J. Mandel, Ltd., of Skokie (Joseph E. Tighe, of counsel); The Stuttley Group, LLC, of Harvey (Michael E. Stuttley, of counsel); Novoselsky Law Offices, P.C., of Chicago (David A. Novoselsky, of counsel).

For Appellees: Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney of Cook County, of Chicago (Assistant Deputy State's Attorney Daniel Gallagher, Assistant States Attorneys Jeffrey McCutchan and Sisavanh Baker, of Counsel).

LIU, JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Simon and Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

LIU, JUSTICE

[¶1] Plaintiffs, Mark J. Schacht and several John Does, appeal an order of the circuit court dismissing their third amended complaint with prejudice pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 2012)). On appeal, plaintiffs contend that the court erred in determining that they did not have standing to challenge the method in which the clerk of the circuit court of Cook County holds and remits certain court fees. For the following reasons, we affirm.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] The instant case was commenced by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. (Reverend Jackson), Rainbow Push Coalition, Inc. (Rainbow Push), and John Does one through four (collectively, John Does), against Dorothy Brown (Clerk) and the County of Cook (Cook County) (collectively, defendants). Schacht later substituted for Reverend Jackson and Rainbow Push as the plaintiff, and added Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans as a defendant. Chief Judge Evans was eventually dismissed with prejudice from the suit.[1] Plaintiffs then filed the third amended complaint, alleging, inter alia, that Dorothy Brown, as the clerk of the circuit court of Cook County, is engaged in a practice of holding and remitting certain court fees in a manner not authorized by law. Below, we recite those allegations that are pertinent to our disposition.

[¶4] The Illinois General Assembly has passed legislation that authorizes counties in the State of Illinois to impose certain charges that the clerk of the circuit court is tasked with collecting. Some of these charges are to be imposed at the time an initial pleading or appearance is filed in a civil case; others are imposed for violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/1-100 et seq. (West 2012)) or take the form of " fees to be paid on judgments of guilty or grants of supervision for a range of offenses from business offenses and petty offenses to felonies." The clerk of the circuit court, in some cases, is tasked with remitting the proceeds of such fees to the county treasurer; in other cases, the clerk is tasked with depositing the proceeds into accounts for the operation of certain programs specified by the enabling legislation.

[¶5] Plaintiffs are taxpayers of Cook County, Illinois, and represent individuals who have paid certain of these fees or whom the legislature intended to benefit from the collection of such fees. Schacht is a Cook County resident who has paid " initial filing fees" in connection with litigation in the circuit court of Cook County, and " Mandatory Fees and Costs" in connection with minor traffic offenses. John Does are individuals who were formerly subject to the juvenile justice system in Illinois and who have paid " fines" identified in the complaint. In addition, John Does were allegedly eligible, at one time, to participate in a juvenile intervention program that should have received, as funding, a portion of mandatory fees and costs and " fines imposed on judgments of guilty and supervision in felony, misdemeanor, business and petty offenses."

[¶6] Plaintiffs allege that funds collected by the Clerk as mandatory fees and costs were never remitted as required by their enabling legislation. Specifically, they claim that the following fees were not remitted as required by law: the court automation fee (705 ILCS 105/27.3a (West 2012)); document storage fee (705 ILCS 105/27.3c (West 2012)); court system fee (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(a), (c) (West 2012)); mental health court fee (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(d-5) (West 2012)); youth diversion program fee (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(e) (West 2012)); drug court fee (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(f) (West 2012)); operation and administrative fund fee (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(f) (West 2012)); peer court fee (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(e) (West 2012)); children's advocacy center fee (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(f-5) (West 2012)); and children's waiting room fee (705 ILCS 105/27.7 (West 2012)).

[¶7] In count I, plaintiffs request a return of the court automation, document storage, and children's waiting room charges, which, they allege, amount to " court taxes" in violation of the Illinois Constitution. In count II, plaintiffs seek a mandatory injunction that would require the Clerk to collect the alleged " court taxes" and remit them to the Cook County treasurer, and that would require the treasurer to disburse those funds in accordance with the enabling legislation. In count III, plaintiffs request a return of all fines that were improperly collected. In count IV, they request a mandatory injunction that would require the Clerk to collect the subject fines and remit them to the Cook County treasurer, and that would require the treasurer to disburse those funds in accordance with the enabling legislation. In count V, plaintiffs request an injunction " to compel defendants to comply with the requirements of law in the performance of the duties that they were elected to uphold and fulfill." Finally, in count VI, plaintiffs seek to permanently enjoin Cook County from diverting money to the operation and administrative fund and " Fund 883."

[¶8] On May 13, 2013, defendants filed a combined motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619.1 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2012)), asserting, inter alia, that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the fees identified in the complaint. First, defendants argued that the fees under section 5-1101 of the Counties Code (55 ILCS 5/5-1101 (West 2012)) were, in fact, " fines" that could not be challenged by plaintiffs under People v. Graves, 235 Ill.2d 244, 919 N.E.2d 906, 335 Ill.Dec. 881 (2009). Second, they argued that none of the fee statutes ...


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