The city of Chicago is facing a class action complaint over the city’s longstanding practice of issuing duplicative vehicle tickets.
Plaintiffs Orlando Jones and Rodney Shelton filed a complaint Nov. 29 in Cook County Circuit Court, represented by attorneys Jacie C. Zolna, Myron M. Cherry, Benjamin R. Swetland and Jessica C. Chavin, of the firm of Myron M. Cherry & Associates LLC, of Chicago.
The Cherry firm earlier this year arranged a $38 million settlement on behalf of nearly 450,000 plaintiffs in the first successful class action against the city over alleged abuses within its red light camera program. For that settlement, the Cherry firm was expected to receive $11 million in fees.
According to the new complaint, the city has issued multiple tickets to the same vehicles on the same day for failure to display a city vehicle sticker, “a practice specifically prohibited under the Municipal Code of Chicago.” Any Chicago resident operating a vehicle in the city must have a sticker, which cost “up to several hundreds of dollars every year” depending on the type of vehicle.
Zolna Myron M. Cherry & Associates
The complaint also said fines for failure to display a sticker increased by 67 percent as part of the city’s 2012 budget, and now start at $200, which can rise to $488 with late penalties and collection fees.
“Unpaid ticket debt is driving a spike in bankruptcy filings in Chicago, predominantly in minority communities,” the complaint said, referencing a recent ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ investigation into the stickers. One article, dated June 27, ran under the headline “Three City Sticker Tickets on the Same Car in 90 Minutes?”
The complaint further said the city responded to the ProPublica report by considering refunds and debt cancellations, adding “many city officials even privately acknowledged that what the city was doing was illegal. … But this was all lip service. No steps were taken by the city to remedy its illicit conduct, much less any ‘reasonable’ ones.’ Instead, the city falsely suggesting that it would properly remediate affected motorists then did nothing in the hopes that it would all blow over.”
Jones said his car got two city sticker tickets on Nov. 15, 2015, and a different vehicle got two tickets on Feb. 12, 2018, for expired licensed plates. Shelton, a city employee, said he got two tickets for each of those violations on the same car on Oct. 2, 2014. Both men say the paid the fines under duress, for fear the city would “garnish their wages, initiate collection actions and report them to credit reporting bureaus.”
The complaint also said the city has threatened to impound vehicles, suspend driver’s license and impose real estate liens. Unpaid fines and penalties incur 9 percent annual interest and motorists are liable for the city’s legal fees. The city puts holds on business license applications for drivers with unpaid sticker tickets and asks the state to withhold income tax refunds.
Published reports place the number of duplicative sticker violations around 20,000. The complaint calls for creation of a class for anyone who got two city sticker tickets in one day, as well as one for those who got duplicate expired registration tickets, and subclasses for those who paid some or all of the fines.
In addition to class certification and a jury trial, the plaintiffs want the court to issue an injunction preventing enforcement of duplicative tickets and to award restitution. The complaint also calls for the court to force the city to refund all fines paid by people found to have received multiple citations on the same day, with interest, and to cover plaintiffs’ and the classes’ legal fees.