Prenzler, Melucci, Suarez and Dixon named in class action; $5 filing fee violates access to courts, suit says

Andrea Dearden Apr. 11, 2012, 9:50am



Treasurers and court clerks of St. Clair and Madison Counties are accused of violating the Illinois state constitution by allegedly limiting access to their respective courts in civil cases.

Andrea G. Smith-Silk and Thomas J. Koziacki, individually and on behalf of multiple plaintiffs, filed a class action lawsuit March 23 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Kurt Prenzler, Matt Melucci, Charles Suarez and Kahala Dixon.

According to the complaint, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Neutral Site Custody Exchange Act in June 2000. The bill reportedly included a tax or fee to be collected by the Clerk of the Circuit Court on all civil case filings. The money was allegedly to be used by the respective counties to fund a neutral site for child custody exchanges as well as basic judicial administration in the county.

Members of the class allege they were charged $5 to file a civil case in Madison and St. Clair County, with the money being paid to the County Court Clerk and used by the County Treasurer on the neutral site for child visitation. They claim they paid the fee, under protest, at the time of their filing and objected to the fee by way of a formal written complaint.

Smith-Silk and Koziacki, on behalf of thousands of others, claim the $5 fee interferes with a citizen's access to the courts and the due process of law. They cite the Illinois Supreme Court's 1984 decision in Crocker v. Finley as justification for their claim.

The class asks the court for a judgement of more than $50,000 in damages, plus court fees. They are also requesting the Neutral Site Custody Act be deemed unconstitutional and the counties ordered to stop charging any payments that are affiliated with the legislation.

Attorney Shari L. Murphy of Wood River is representing the class.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Case No. 12-L-152

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