Kane clerk fees lawsuit could face delay during Cook appeal

A proposed class-action lawsuit against the Kane County circuit court clerk arguing the office improperly charged some fees could be put on hold while an appellate court panel considers a similar case in Cook County that was dismissed by a judge.

Raul Tejeda of Gilberts filed suit in the spring, arguing Clerk Thomas Hartwell has systematically and illegally charged fees to modify non-final orders in litigation such as foreclosure cases.

The lawsuit argues 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.

Attorneys for Hartwell and the county want a judge to delay the Kane case while an appeals court considers a case filed by the Midwest Medical Records Association against Cook County circuit court Clerk Dorothy Brown, records show.

"The issues raised in said appeal are identical to the issues that this court would need to resolve," wrote the Kane County state's attorney's office in Hartwell's defense. "The Circuit Court of Cook County dismissed Count 1 of Midwest (vs. Brown) because plaintiffs failed to allege that their payments were involuntary."

Attorneys for Midwest differ in their opinion.

"Because this court does not seek recoupment of the unlawful fees previously paid, but rather seeks prospective relief, the voluntary payment doctrine simply does not come into play. The court erroneously dismissed this count," wrote Midwest attorneys in their appeal filed in February.

There is no timetable for the state's First Appellate Court District to rule on the Cook County case.

The lawsuit against Hartwell's office is next due in Kane County court July 18.

Kane 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.

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