Ruth takes summary judgment under advisement in FOID card class action

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Feb 14, 2019

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth took summary judgment under advisement in a class action alleging an additional $1 filing fee for FOID cards in Illinois is unlawful.

In his Jan. 29 order, Ruth wrote that summary judgment has been argued and was taken under advisement. He further set a case management conference for April 24 at 9 a.m.

Thomas Maag of Wood River filed the motion for summary judgment as to the unlawfulness of the challenged FOID card fee on Oct. 18, 2017, on behalf of the plaintiffs.

He argues that “it is undisputed that there exists no mechanism for anyone to obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card upon the payment of a $10.00 fee, as it is undisputed that the only payment system that Defendants use to collect the fee charges $11.00. Defendant has not articulated any reason, justification or excuse as to why they can legally charge $11.00 for a FOID card.”

Maag asks the court to enter summary judgment on the issue of the overcharge and to enjoin the defendants from charging or collecting the fee. He also asks the court to order the defendants to disgorge and refund the fees.

Firearms Services Bureau Chief Jessica Trame and Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs filed a response to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on Dec. 8, 2017, through assistant attorney general Joshua Ratz.

Ratz argues in the response that a private vendor processing FOID card applications collects the application fee and remits the payments to the Illinois State Treasurer. The vendor charges a $1 service fee that is disclosed on the application website.

Ratz argues that the plaintiffs are not entitled to recover payments made to the third-party vendor because the payments were for services rendered by the vendor as the plaintiffs’ agents.

Maag filed the suit Oct. 15, 2015, for plaintiff Gary Patrick Sterr and “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.”

In the complaint, Maag wrote that Sterr was charged the extra dollar as a convenience fee through the Illinois E-pay program for processing applications online. He 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.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1337

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