Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ruth grants class certification in dispute over FOID card processing fee

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Aug 2, 2017

Law money 07

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth granted class certification in a suit alleging the state inappropriately charged a $1 processing fee for firearm owner identification cards.

Ruth held that the prerequisites for the maintenance of a class action are met in the case and class certification is appropriate for the “fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.”

“The class of individuals allegedly affected by the cause of action in this case is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.

“There are questions of fact or law common to the class, which common questions predominate over any questions affecting only individual members,” the order states.

Plaintiff Gary Patrick Sterr is the representative of the class.

The class consists of “all persons who applied for a FOID card from March 15, 2015, through and including the date of final judgment and paid a fee in excess of $10.00 when applying for said FOID card.”

Thomas G. Maag and Peter J. Maag of the Maag Law Firm LLC in Wood River are appointed class counsel.

Ruth certified the class on June 28, more than a year after the motion was filed. Prior to his June order, the record shows that the case had been inactive since December when a case management conference was rescheduled pending his ruling on class certification.

Thomas Maag sought class certification in February 2016. He proposed a class definition to include anyone who applied for a FOID card any time in 2015 and who paid a fee in excess of $10.

Firearms Services Bureau Chief Jessica Trame and Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs objected to the class definition in April 2016.

They argue that the proposed class definition is too vague and potentially overbroad. They asked that the class be more specifically defined.

Their proposed class definition included the time frame “from March 15, 2015, through and including the date of final judgment” and who paid a processing fee in addition to the application fee.

Ruth included the defendants’ proposed definition in his order.

Trame and Frerichs are represented by Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Maag filed the suit Oct. 15, 2015, for Sterr, who claims he was charged the extra dollar as a convenience fee through the Illinois E-pay program for processing applications online.

In his complaint, Maag argues that statute 430 ILCS 65/5 expressly states that the FOID fee is $10.

By charging an additional $1, he claims Trame is unilaterally imposing a 10 percent surcharge on FOID cards without statutory authority.

He further claims it is impossible to get a FOID card without paying the extra fee on top of the $10 mandatory cost (except for certain members of the military who are exempt all together) because the Firearms Services Bureau stopped accepting paper applications that allowed people to mail $10 checks or money orders.

"Defendants have charged a minimum of ten thousand people, and possibly substantially more, well into the hundreds of thousands or millions of class members," Maag wrote.

In 2011, the state received 321,000 FOID applications, he wrote.

Maag notes that in order to lawfully possess a firearm in Illinois, "it is generally required to have in a person's possession a currently valid" FOID card.

Ruth scheduled a case management conference for Aug. 23 at 9 a.m.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1337

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Organizations in this Story

Madison County Circuit CourtMaag Law Firm, LLCIllinois Attorney General