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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit 2-1 ruling today in case out of Illinois has 3 opinions

In JERRY G. MARKADONATOS v. VILLAGE OF WOODRIDGE (ND Ill.), a 35-page, 2-1 opinion, Judge J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, sitting by designation, writes:

Under Title 5 of its Village Code, the Village of Woodridge charges every arrestee in its custody a $30 booking fee. Indeed, after Woodridge police arrested the plaintiff-appellant for retail theft on January 8, 2011, the Village collected its $30 booking fee from him, without any opportunity to contest that collection either before or after the fee was taken. Mr. Markadonatos is not alone—Woodridge has taken the same $30 fee from each of the large number of people arrested and booked in its vicinity. Thus, Mr. Markadonatos filed the putative class action suit at hand, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that Woodridge’s booking fee violates both the procedural and substantive due process rights of the class members. The district judge dismissed Mr. Markadonatos’ initial and amended complaints, finding that Mr. Markadonatos had not stated a claim for relief. We agree. Mr. Markadonatos’ procedural due process argument necessarily fails, and he lacks standing to seek relief under a substantive due process claim. We therefore affirm the decision of the district court. * * *

[Judge Sykes concurring, p. 15] I join Judge Stadtmueller’s opinion for the court. I write to highlight a key conceptual distinction that separates my view of this case from Judge Hamilton’s. Markadonatos argues that the Village of Woodridge ordinance imposing a $30 jail booking fee violates his right to procedural and substantive due process. The crux of his procedural due-process claim is that the fee is collected automatically, at the time of custodial arrest and booking, without any formal process at all. The crux of his substantive due-process claim is that the fee is collected from everyone who is arrested and booked into the jail regardless of whether the arrest was lawful, a criminal charge is filed, or the person is found guilty. * * *

To say that the booking fee is unconstitutional because it is collected from all arrested persons—even those who are arrested without probable cause, never charged, win a dismissal, or are acquitted—is to say that the fee ordinance is unconstitutional in substance. It is to say, as Judge Hamilton does in his dissent, that the booking fee is substantively justifiable only as a fine—that is, only as part of the substantive punishment for a crime. He may be right about that. But we cannot entertain that substantive claim here because Markadonatos lacks standing to make it. * * *

[Judge Hamilton, dissenting, p. 18] This should be a simple case. The village’s “booking fee” ordinance is unconstitutional on its face. It takes property from all arrestees—the guilty and the innocent alike—without due process of law. The deprivation occurs at the time of arrest, immediately and finally. It occurs based on only the say-so and perhaps even the whim of one arresting officer. By no stretch of the imagination can that be due process of law. The fee is in substance a criminal fine, modest but a fine nonetheless, and it is imposed regardless of the validity of the arrest and regardless of whether there is any criminal prosecution or what its outcome might be.

The case has become unduly complicated, however. First, the majority fails to come to grips with the obvious procedural due process challenge by mistakenly splitting plaintiff’s procedural claim into separate “procedural” and “substantive” due process claims and then analyzing each separately. Then, after confusing standing with the merits, the majority holds that plaintiff lacks standing to assert the “substantive” claim. The majority also seems to accept the village’s effort to justify the fee as a “user fee” to pay for the “service” of being arrested. That turns the concept of a user fee upside down.

The obvious constitutional flaw here is easy to correct: make the fee payable upon conviction of a crime, as part of the court costs authorized by law after the full procedural protections of the criminal justice system. That is not a “substantive” due process theory, as my colleagues seem to think, but a simple correction to a facially unconstitutional law. We should reverse the district court’s dismissal and remand the case for further proceedings. I therefore respectfully dissent.

[ILB: I recommend to you the rest of Hamilton's dissent, 17 pp. in all. As a reader writes: "His allusions to Orwell's 1984 and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland in taking apart the City's arguments as well as his colleagues' flawed majority opinion are brilliant, and (for Judge Hamilton) biting and bordering on sarcasm."]

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 8, 2014 08:23 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions