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Seventh Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Illinois Booking Fee Challenge

Seventh Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Illinois Booking Fee Challenge

by Mark Wilson

On January 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a challenge to a jail’s booking fee policy.

The Village of Woodridge, Illinois imposes a $30 booking fee on any person who is arrested and taken into custody. The fee is collected without any hearing, or
opportunity to challenge the deprivation or seek reimbursement.

On January 8, 2011, Jerry G. Markadonatos was arrested and booked into jail. He paid the $30 booking fee and was given a receipt, but was not afforded a hearing or any other opportunity to challenge the fee.

After Markadonatos successfully completed a period of supervised release, he was adjudicated “not guilty.” Despite this favorable resolution the booking fee was not refunded and he was denied an opportunity to seek reimbursement.

Markadonatos filed suit on behalf of himself and all arrestees who were charged the booking fee, alleging that the fee violates procedural and substantive due process. The district court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Applying the balancing test in Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), the Court of Appeals concluded “that the district court was correct in holding that Mr. Markadonatos cannot state a procedural due process violation based upon Woodridge’s booking fee ordinance.” The Court reasoned that “the risk of an erroneous deprivation” was “practically non-existent,” and “additional safeguards would not in any way reduce the risk thereof.”

The appellate court also held that Markadonatos was unable to climb the “steep hill” of proving that collection of the booking fee “shocks the conscience.” The Seventh Circuit ultimately concluded “that Woodridge’s booking fee does not violate Mr. Markadonatos’ right to substantive due process” because no fundamental right was implicated and the fee was rational and not arbitrarily imposed. Accordingly, the district court’s order of dismissal was affirmed.

One judge dissented, likening the defense of the booking fee to the Queen of Hearts’ philosophy of “sentence first, verdict afterwards” in Alice in Wonderland, and to the doublespeak of George Orwell’s 1984, “where language is used to mean the opposite of reality.”

“This should be a simple case,” the lengthy dissent suggested. “The village’s ‘booking fee’ ordinance is unconstitutional on its face. It takes property from all arrestees – the guilty and innocent alike – without due process of law.” See: Markadonatos v. Village of Woodridge, 739 F.3d 984 (7th Cir. 2014).

The dismissal of the case was upheld in a divided en banc Seventh Circuit opinion on July 21, 2014, with five judges voting to affirm the district court, four voting to reverse and one voting to remand with instructions to dismiss due to lack of standing. See: Markadonatos v. Woodridge, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 13856 (7th Cir. 2014).


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Related legal cases

Village of Woodridge

Markadonatos v. Woodridge