The Cook County Circuit Clerk’s office has been hit with a potential class action lawsuit, brought by litigants who claim the office has improperly collected fees for interlocutory motions filed over various questions arising while cases are still in process in Cook County Circuit Court.
Midwest Medical Records Association filed the class-action complaint Nov. 19, naming Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, as well as co-defendants Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappasand the county itself. The Schaumburg company is disputing filing fees charged for certain court motions.
State law states which fees local circuit clerks may charge in Illinois counties in which the population exceeds 3 million — Cook is the only Illinois county with a population exceeding seven figures — including “petition to vacate or modify any final judgment or order of court.” If filed within 30 days of the entry of the order, the fee can be between $50 and $60. After that, the fee can be between $75 and $90.
Midwest Medical maintained the county is charging for interlocutory orders as well, noting, “as a result, the Clerk of Court has been charging and collecting an unlawful fee. Plaintiff and class members were required to pay this unlawful fee or be denied the ability to file their motions or petitions and present their legal arguments to the court.”
Lawmakers’ intent was clear in the wording of the statue, Midwest Medical asserted.
“By including the adjective ‘final,’ the Illinois Legislature intended to exclude interlocutory matters,” the company argued in its complaint. In fact, the company noted, the law in question “was amended in 1990 specifically to add the word ‘final’ to make clear that a fee is only authorized for petitions to modify or vacate a judgment or order that ‘disposes’ of the proceedings.”
Midwest Medical said it believes the class likely includes “thousands of members, if not more.” The one specific incident cited in the complaint is a Feb. 27, 2013, filing of a motion to reconsider an interlocutory order in a pending circuit court case. Filing that motion Midwest Medical’s attorney to pay a $60 fee.
The complaint alleged three counts against the Circuit Clerk’s office, including asking the court to declare the clerk had charged an unlawful fee and was unjustly enriched as a result. In addition to seeking class status, the complaint requested a judgment that the imposition of fees for filing a motion or petition to reconsider, vacate or modify an interlocutory order is illegal, and requested unspecified damages and legal fees.
Under the unlawful fee count, the plaintiffs asked the court specifically to require the county offices to refund all filing fees allegedly collected in violation of state law. Under the unjust enrichment count, Midwest Medical argued the Circuit Clerk’s collection of such fees “violates the fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience.”
A jury trial is requested.
According to its company website, Midwest Medical Records Association was founded in 1994 and provides information release services for medical facilities nationwide, helping clients comply with laws and regulations with a high degree of “security, accuracy and timeliness.”
The attorneys for Midwest Medical and putative class members are Myron M. Cherry, Jacie C. Zolna and Dario Dzananovic, of Myron M. Cherry & Associates, Chicago.