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Platt v. Brown

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 31, 2017

MICHAEL PLATT, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
DOROTHY BROWN, as Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and MARIA PAPPAS, as Treasurer of the Cook County Treasurer's Office, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee, Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Platt, individually and on behalf of a putative class, has sued Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Dorothy Brown and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas in their official capacities. Platt alleges that Defendants have violated his due process and equal protection rights as guaranteed under the United States and Illinois Constitutions by collecting a bail bond fee equivalent to 1% of the bail amount. He also asserts that this practice violates the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution and constitutes unjust enrichment under Illinois common law. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons given below, the Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss.

         Factual Background

         Any criminal defendant arrested in Cook County, for whom bail is set, may secure his or her pretrial release by depositing 10% of the full bail amount with the Clerk's Office. Compl. ¶ 19. Prior to January 1, 2016, once the defendant's criminal case had progressed to the point when bond was no longer necessary, the Clerk's Office returned 90% of the 10% deposit to the criminal defendant, while retaining the remaining 10% of the deposit as a bail bond fee. Id. ¶ 20; see 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/110-7(f). For example, if a defendant's bail were set at $10, 000, he would pay a $1, 000 deposit to secure his pretrial release. At the end of the case, assuming that the defendant complied with the conditions of the bond, he would receive back $900 from the Clerk's Office, and the Clerk's Office would keep $100 of the deposit as a bail bond fee. Compl. ¶ 29. Alternatively, a defendant could secure the full amount of the bond using cash, stocks, bonds, or real estate, in which case he would not be required to pay a deposit or fee at all. See 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/110-8.

         In 2014, Plaintiff Platt was arrested after a bar fight that resulted in the death of another person. Compl. ¶ 34. The Cook County State's Attorney Office charged Platt with first-degree murder. Id. ¶ 35. A judge set Platt's bail at $2 million, and Platt paid a deposit of $200, 000 to secure his release pending trial. Id. ¶¶ 36, 38. After Platt was acquitted, the Clerk's Office returned his deposit, less a $20, 000 bail bond fee. Id. ¶ 42. According to the complaint, the actual cost of processing a criminal defendant's bond is “$100 or less.” Id. ¶ 44.

         In 2015, the Illinois General Assembly proposed an amendment to the bond statute that would cap bail bond fees in Cook County at $100. Id. ¶ 49; see Compl., Ex. 1. The Governor signed the amendment into law on August 20, 2015, and it became effective on January 1, 2016. Id. ¶ 55. Platt brings an action on behalf of all individuals who paid a bail bond fee of more than $100 for the five years prior to January 1, 2016. Id. ¶ 10.

         Legal Standard

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Furthermore, the complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although the complaint does not have to include “detailed factual allegations, ” it must “include sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); see Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court “construe[s] the . . . [c]omplaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded facts and drawing all possible inferences in his favor.” Cole, 634 F.3d at 903. “A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).

         Analysis

         I. Motion to Dismiss Counts I and II: Due Process

         In Counts I and II, Platt alleges that a bail bond fee that exceeds $100 violates the Due Process Clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions. Specifically, Platt contends that the collection of such a fee violates substantive due process because the fee does not relate to the cost of administering a bail bond (which Plaintiff asserts is $100) and, therefore, its collection “impedes the due administration of justice.” Compl. ¶¶ 26, 67, 72. In addition, Platt asserts that the collection of fees exceeding $100 violates procedural due process because, on balance, the private interest in receiving back the remaining ten-percent of the deposit outweighs the state's interest in collecting such fees, especially in light of what Platt characterizes as the lack of procedural safeguards around imposition of the bail fee itself.

         The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: “[N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV. “[T]he Due Process Clause specially protects those fundamental rights and liberties which are, objectively, deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition, and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 US. 702, 720-21 (1997).

         The Supreme Court has cautioned against “expand[ing] the concept of substantive due process because guideposts for responsible decisionmaking in this unchartered area are scarce and openended.” Id. at 720. Rights that have been recognized as fundamental are limited to: “the rights to marry, to have children, to direct the education and upbringing of one's children, to ...


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