EDWARDSVILLE -- The city of Alton has filed a response to S&J Real Property LLC’s motion to file a second amended complaint against it, in a proposed class action dispute involving grass-cutting liens.
The city responded in the Madison County Circuit Court on Aug. 26 through the Pierce Law Firm to an argument that Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth improperly denied class member Marilyn Dilly's request for substitution of judge, in violation of a local court rule and constitutional provisions.
Dilly, and the proposed class, are represented by Shari Murphy of Wood River. Their argument was laid out in an April 5 motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. Chief Judge William Mudge, in the meantime, reassigned the case to Associate Judge Thomas Chapman in July.
The city challenges the motion for a second amended complaint and noted that it filed to dismiss back in January. The city argues that its motion has been scheduled for a hearing at least three times “only to not be heard because of plaintiffs’ procedural machinations."
"The plaintiffs' proposed amended complaint is unrelated to the merits of the claim against this defendant," the city argues. "Although leave to file amended complaints is freely given, plaintiffs in this case seek to join an unrelated claim.
"Defendant would like to get this case moving and have their motion to dismiss heard. It has been unable to do so while plaintiffs litigate the side show of this claim against the court."
A claim against a government official in his official capacity is considered to be a claim against the entity itself, the city argues.
"As such, plaintiffs seek to sue the Madison County Circuit Court. Defendant questions how this judge, or any judge of this Court, can sit in judgment over the Madison County Circuit Court itself and ultimately be asked to enter an award against that entity i.e., the Madison County Court.
"While plaintiff is of course free to tilt at windmills, the proposed claims have nothing to do with the claim against the City of Alton and the City should not be dragged along and have its case bogged down by this added count."
The underlying controversy began after S&J and a proposed class sued Alton involving the process of serving grass-cutting liens, the Madison-St. Clair Record previously reported.
According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, a lien is required for removal costs of neglected weeds and grass on a parcel of land and must be served either personally or by certified mail to whomever was sent the property tax bill for the parcel in the taxable year immediately preceding the removal. Otherwise, the removal cost is not a lien on the parcel.
S&J Real Property owns a property located at 946 Union Street in Alton.
The city allegedly recorded a grass cutting lien on the property for mowing and weed eating in the amount of $108.70, the suit states.
Dilly owns a property located at 1261 State Street in Alton.
The city allegedly recorded a grass cutting lien on the property for mowing and weed eating in the amount of $74.19, the suit states.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 18-L-1084