I must admit that I haven’t had occasion to file a new eviction in the last week, but it has come to my attention that the Cook County Sheriff may not be making routine service of summons at this time. To find out, I submitted a question to the Sheriff’s office and just received a response. It appears thatdespite the fact that the Sheriff has not been ordered to “stand down”, he has done so.
The question I posed was as follows: “Is the Sheriff currently serving summons? Is this something that is suspended during the Covid outbreak? If so, what is the authority for that suspension? Thanks ” The answer I received was as follows:
This is an interesting response. First, I appreciate that the Sheriff’s office was so prompt to answer my question. Second, I think I disagree as to the authority cited that justifies this decision. So, the Cook County Sheriff has determined that probate, juvenile and order of protection summonses are “essential” but that routine summonses, including eviction summonses, are not.
So, let’s take a look at the general order issued by Judge Evans. The link I inserted to the order is a searchable web page (as opposed to a pdf). A simple search on the word “Sheriff” indicates the Cook County Sheriff being mentioned all of three times. First, in the preamble to the order indicating:
“In light of global coronavirus pandemic, and in order to protect the health and safety of the general public, the court’s judges and employees, and elected officials, after conferring with the offices of the Cook County State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Sheriff, Clerk, County Board President, the Circuit Court Executive Committee, and representatives of the private bar, and pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 21(b) and the court’s inherent authority,” (emphasis added)
And second, specifically with respect to the suspension of the enforcement of eviction orders:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Sheriff of Cook County shall cease execution of eviction orders relating to residential real estate effective March 14, 2020. The Sheriff shall resume execution of said orders in 30 days;
No where else in the document is the Sheriff mentioned. The Sheriff, to the best of my knowledge, done not fall within the directive of the order that applies it to “all judges and employees of Circuit Court of Cook County”. In my opinion, the Sheriff has only been told to cease function as to eviction order enforcement.
What can be done about this? Well, not much. I suspect the Sheriff can determine on his own authority that it is not safe to serve general summons and that those are not essential. However, it would certainly be within the discretion of the Circuit Court to allow private process servers to serve original summons and that the filing of a motion to appoint one would constitute a court order authorizing such service. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. I’m guessing the court system and the Sheriff would not like the “media optics” of allowing evictions to proceed during these unprecedented times.
As a result, while a landlord (at least a landlord not prohibited by the Federal CARES Act) can still serve a notice of termination and can still file an eviction complaint with a return date after May 18, 2020, the Sheriff will not be serving those summonses.