Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown | Youtube screenshot
A new class action lawsuit has accused the Cook County Circuit Clerk’s office of charging illegal fees to people filing petitions in Cook County court to enforce child support orders.
On Dec. 20, attorney Daniel A. Edelman, and others with the firm of Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin, of Chicago, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of named plaintiff Judy Schimpf, of Red Bank, N.J.
According to the complaint, Schimpf sought to file a petition in Cook County court to enforce a New Jersey judge’s order against a man who she claimed owed her more than $142,000 in child support.
The action was filed under the federal and Illinois state versions of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. That law gives Illinois and other states so-called “long arm” power to enforce child support orders across state lines.
When Schimpf filed the petition, the Circuit Clerk’s office required her to pay a filing fee of $388, according to the complaint.
The complaint said the Circuit Clerk’s fee schedule exempts government agencies from paying such fees, but not private individuals seeking to enforce those out-of-state child support orders.
The lawsuit asserts the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act does not allow the Circuit Clerk to charge such fees to individuals seeking to enforce child support orders, and Brown’s office is choosing to “ignore” the law.
The lawsuit asserts the Circuit Clerk’s decision to charge the fees “violates due process and interferes with the petitioner’s right to petition the courts for redress of grievances.”
The lawsuit seeks to expand the action to include a class of potentially many others who have paid the allegedly illegal filing fees.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the Circuit Clerk’s office to stop charging the fees, and to refund the fees paid to Schimpf and all others who have paid such fees. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the Circuit Clerk’s office to pay unspecified punitive damages and attorney fees.
The new lawsuit is the latest among other litigation accusing Brown’s office of allegedly charging illegal fees. In several recent decisions, for instance, state appeals courts have ruled Brown’s office can be sued for making litigants pay fees to file certain types of appeals-related motions, when the law only allows fees on appeals of “any final judgment or order of the court.” Those lawsuits remain pending.
Brown has announced she will not seek reelection to the office of Cook County Circuit Clerk in 2020.