Newton, IL. (ECWd) -
The Jasper County Clerk, Linda Huth, imposes unauthorized fees which are inconsistent with state law and thinks she can unlawfully seize and search your personal electronic devices.
After our last article written about an individual who was arrested, detained, and forced to provide his name for simply submitting a Freedom Of Information Act request and refusing to pay the illegal fee imposed by Jasper County Clerk, we have further researched the issue and stand by our original interpretation of state law - that the clerk is imposing fees not consistent with state law.
Counties Code - County Clerk: Section 3-2012 of the Counties Code states that all records shall be open to the inspection of all persons without reward.
Counties Code - County Recorder: Section 3-5018 of the Counties Code states that fees must comply with the statute unless increased by county ordinance - that fees must be established by county ordinance and made public - and that [Section 3-5036] records are open to inspection and all persons shall have the right to take memoranda and abstracts thereof without fee or reward.
Illinois Freedom Of Information Act: Section 6 (Authority to charge fees) prescribes fees that may be charged under the FOIA and also states that the imposition of fees inconsistent with the Act, violate the Act.
None of the above statutes authorize a County Clerk and Recorder to charge fees for scans, copies, or pictures taken with an electronic device owned by the person taking them.
The Courts: Additionally, there is an Appellate Court case, determined in 2009, dealing with a Circuit Clerk who thought she could charge a per-page fee when someone brought their own scanner to scan the documents. Newman, Raiz, and Shelmadine v. Cook County Circuit Clerk. In this case, the Appellate Court determined that even though the circuit clerk was not a public body and did not fall under the Freedom of Information Act, the clerk could not charge a fee when someone used their own scanner to scan documents in the circuit clerk's office.
"We cannot find any language in any statute which implies that it would be impermissible to use what is essentially another third-party copy machine and therefore we see no reason why they should be absolutely prohibited. ...a blanket prohibition on the use of a personal scanner is overly broad and quite arguably begins to interfere with an individual's right to inspect a record and take "memoranda and abstracts" of them."
"Accordingly, the Circuit Clerk is ordered to permit the use of personal scanners so long as the integrity of the documents is maintained and the Circuit Clerk's operations are not interfered with."
Language in the County Recorder section of the Counties Code is identical to that of the Circuit Clerk in this case..."to take memoranda and abstracts of " - then, place the additional restrictions on fees found under section 6 of the FOIA which a county clerk and recording must follow, it should be clear to any reasonable person that the Jasper County Clerk and Recorder is imposing fees inconsistent with state law and infringing on people's rights to inspect records and take memoranda and abstracts from those records without fee.
Last week I sent an email to the Jasper County State's Attorney's office asking that he look at these fees to determine their legality, and asking that the fees I paid after taking a picture of a deed be refunded to me.
As of this publication, we have received no response to that email.
ECWd now calls on the County Clerk and Recorder's office to be audited in order to determine how many of these unauthorized fees have been collected, and all monies returned to those who were forced to pay them.