Suit claims Kane County clerk unlawfully collected fees

A Gilberts man is seeking class-action status in his lawsuit against Kane County Circuit Court Clerk Thomas Hartwell, arguing the clerk's office violated the law by charging filing fees on non-final orders in litigation.

"The state only allows fees for final orders," said Jeffrey Berman, an attorney representing Raul Tejeda in the case. "This (lawsuit) is about the clerk charging fees he's not allowed to under state law."

Hartwell said Friday he had been served with the lawsuit, but declined to comment.

In the lawsuit, filed earlier this month in Kane County, Tejeda argues he was charged a $75 fee by Hartwell's office to modify an order in a foreclosure case.

Under the state's Clerk of Courts Act, the lawsuit argues, filing fees may be imposed and collected for petitions to vacate or modify final judgments and orders. The fees, the suit maintains, cannot be charged with ongoing, or interlocutory, orders in litigation and Hartwell's office has done just that.

"As a result, the Clerk of Court has been charging and collecting unlawful fees. Plaintiff and class members would be denied the ability to file their motions or petitions if they did not pay this fee. Plaintiff and class members were forced into an unlawful fee in order to present their legal arguments to the court," reads part of the suit. "Plaintiff's motion is only one example of a time in which a party, including Plaintiff, paid a fee to file a motion or petition to reconsider, vacate, or modify an interlocutory judgment or order."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and asks a judge to order the return of fees.

Berman declined to comment on whether he has an estimate of the amount of fees that had been charged.

The lawsuit states that from 2011 to 2015, an average 107,000 pieces of litigation per year were filed in Kane County and the number of affected people could be in the thousands.

County Treasurer David Rickert also is named as a defendant. He is not accused of wrongdoing, but of accepting the money collected by Hartwell's office.

The case is due in court June 20.

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