Bob Markoff’s Letter Concerning Cook County Sheriff’s Proof of Summons Fee

$10 fee for proof of summons adds insult to injury

To editor:

The sheriff’s office has just made a difficult process even harder! They are adding injury ($10) to insult (blame).

One of the first steps in proceeding with a suit is obtaining service upon a defendant. The case may not proceed without service. Furthermore, the First Municipal District of the Cook County Circuit Court has a rule that all initial summons MUST be given to the sheriff for service before a private process server may be appointed. The sheriff reports service to the court clerk, not to the plaintiff who delivers the summons and complaints (with a $60 fee) to the sheriff for service.

The sheriff delivers the summons together with a return to the clerk of court. It is logged into the clerk’s system and then hopefully placed into the correct court file. Unfortunately, the clerks make mistakes and many summons and returns are misfiled.

And this leads to our problem: a judge will not allow the case to proceed unless the judge can see the sheriff’s return of service. If it is not in the court’s file, the case will stop dead in its tracks until the return is found.

When a return is missing, the clerk will not search 100,000-plus files looking for it. Therefore, at the judges’ instructions, attorneys go to the sheriff’s office to obtain a copy of the proof of service.

Attorneys have had this problem as long as I have been in practice, almost 35 years. The sheriff has never made it easy for us to obtain a copy of the return. For decades, the office has required attorneys to sign affidavits explaining why we need a copy of the return. Then, we would get an unsigned print-out of their records, which some judges would not accept because it did not have the server’s signature.

We, the attorneys, are not the cause of the problem. It is clearly the office of the clerk of court. Yet, we are blamed and put through the hoops to obtain a copy. Now to charge us a fee on top of the large service fees is outrageous!

It is also ridiculous for the clerk’s spokesperson to state that the office has not received any complaints. What cloud is she on?

Let me be clear, the sheriff is not responsible for the missing returns. However, attorneys should not be punished for the clerk’s errors.

Robert G. Markoff
Markoff & Krasny

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