When may a SPS be used in a Chicago eviction case?
Although the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (see 735 ILCS 5/2-202) allows for a private detective or private person over the age of 18 to be appointed (upon motion and at the court's discretion) to serve the tenant with the complaint and summons, the reality is that every judge I have appeared before has required that the Cook County Sheriff (CCS) get at least one bite of the apple. The turn around time for the CCS is about 15 days. Thus, if you are filing your complaint for possession (or Joint Action Complaint - for possession and rent) on the first of March, you can expect the "return date" to be on or after the 15th of March. The Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court website has an excellent feature that allows you to check on the status of the case (and allows you to see if the CCS was successful in service or not).Generally, the status of the service will show within three days of the return date.
If the tenant/defendant is served, you proceed to trial. If not, read on.
My tenant/defendant wasn't served. What do I do first?
Chicago cases are held at the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington Ave, Chicago, IL 60602, usually on the 13th or 14th floor. On the date of court, regardless of whether you know if service was had, show up to the courtroom. The cases are generally set at 9:30am, but check the summons. Outside of each courtroom is a sheet listing all of the cases for the day. Find your case to make sure service wasn't successful (it is possible the website is wrong). Take down your "line number" - the number to the far left of your case's name. If there is no marking next to your case name, such as "N.S." which means "No Service," check in with the court clerk inside of the courtroom. Give the clerk your line number, tell who you are (plaintiff) and ask if there was service. If the clerk says that there was no service or if the sheet says so, or if you checked with the sheriff and they said so (and you don't see the tenant in court), then go to the next step. If the tenant is there, stay in the room.
I have determined that there was no service (and the tenant is not in court). What next?
You don't have to go through the next steps on the return day, but if you choose to wait, you will have to wait a period of time that may take weeks to get the SPS. Thus, it is better to get your SPS on the return date. To do so, head to the 6th floor. In room 601, walk in turn right and walk to the motion counter. You are asking for two documents: (1) notice of motion and (2) motion to appoint a SPS. Fill out those documents with the same information that appears on the summons/complaint forms. Most likely, for the notice, you will be mailing it (which you will do later). Set the date of court for the return date and the time for the time of court that day. You may name a non party as the SPS. Once the documents are ready, get in line at the motion counter and tell the clerk: (1) the case is up today and (2) you want to appoint a SPS. The clerk will stamp the documents and send you to room 602 ("Eviction" counter). Head there to get the file sent upstairs.
How to get the file upstairs?
Bring the stamped notice of motion and motion to appoint a SPS to the Eviction counter in room 602. Ask one of the clerks to have the file sent up - tell them you are getting a special process server appointed. They will take your documents and pull the file in front of you. They will tell you to head back up to the courtroom (a person from the clerk's office will bring your file upstairs). Head back to the courtroom (note that the 7th floor links all floors, so you should take the escalator up to 7 and then take the appropriate elevator to your courtroom's floor). Go into the court room and sit in one of the pews. When the clerk brings the file up, the court clerk will call out the case name and you will approach the bench. Depending on the courtroom, you may not have to go before the Judge to get the order approved (sometimes the court clerk will just hand the order up to the Judge). The order to appoint is actually on the motion to appoint form you filled out before.
Once the Judge orders the SPS, what do I do next?
Either the court clerk will have the Judge sign off on the order and give you copies, or the Judge will call you up. If the Judge calls you up, identify yourself and indicate that you had the Cook County Sheriff try service. The Judge may ask questions before entering the order. Once the court clerk hands you the order, you may (1) leave the court and return at a later time to get your alias summons, or (2) go back to the 6th floor to get an alias summons. The order allows for permission to have your SPS serve the tenant, but now you need a second summons document (called an "alias" summons). If you decide to get it the same day, head to room 601 "Files" counter to ask for an eviction alias summons. They will tell you to write the word "alias" on the top above the word "summons." Fill out the alias summons and head over to room 602 filing fee line. The alias costs $6.00. You can check the clerk of the circuit court website for more details on costs.
Once the SPS is appointed and I get the Alias Summons, do I need to do anything else?
Yes. Get the alias summons and a copy of the complaint to the SPS. Depending on the time frame you decided on when getting the Alias Summons, your SPS may have 7 days to 39 days to (1) serve the tenant and (2) file an affidavit of service with the court. The clerk's website has a form for this affidavit, CCG N060, on its online forms page. Once the tenant is served, the SPS must fill out the affidavit and get a copy back to the clerk's office to be time stamped and filed. This notifies the court that service was had (so that the file will be in the court room, ready for trial, on the return date).
If you have questions beyond this, try the clerk's office or consult with an attorney.
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