The Illinois Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction and consolidated two appeals to consider the constitutionality of section 15-1504-1 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (“Code”) and sections 7.30 and 7.31 of the Illinois Housing Development Act (“Act”). Walker v. Chasteen, 2021 IL 126086 (IL June 17, 2021). The Code created a $50 add-on filing fee to be paid by foreclosure plaintiffs upon filing a foreclosure complaint while the Act created programs to be funded by the fee. The programs were aimed at (a) preventing foreclosure through counseling and education and (b) funding grants used to maintain and improve abandoned properties
The appellants were foreclosure plaintiffs who were required to pay the $50 fee but challenged the constitutionality of the fee claiming it violated the equal protection, due process, uniformity, and ‘free access’ clauses of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. The circuit court agreed with the plaintiffs entering judgment in their favor and enjoining the circuit court clerks from charging the $50 fee. The defendants (Illinois Attorney General and circuit court clerks for Cook and Will counties) directly appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The Illinois Supreme Court applied the “rational basis test” to the constitutional analysis and concluded that the $50 fee used for preventative counseling and education and to alleviate problems associated with abandoned properties “had no direct relation to expenses of a petitioner’s litigation and no relation to the services rendered [by the court system].” Quoting the lower tribunal, the Court concluded the $50 fee constituted an impermissible litigation tax as opposed to a filing fee noting the fee was “tantamount to a litigation-tax funded neighborhood beautification plan.” The Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings.
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