Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s distaste for the enforcement of possession orders is well documented when it comes to foreclosure-related evictions. Whether intentional or not, the Sheriff’s office has instituted a number of policies that make life difficult for landlords seeking the enforcement of their eviction orders. I have reported here that the smallest “scratch out” on an Order for Possession, unless accompanied by a judge’s initials, will result in the Sheriff’s refusal to enforce the eviction order.
As a general rule, to be sure of enforcement these days, an eviction order needs to be drawn in a clean and clear fashion. Even the tiniest deviation from perfection can lead to an order being rejected. When a landlord prevails in a forcible entry case in Cook County, the Plaintiff commonly drafts the “Order for Possession” to be presented for the judge’s signature. The judge signs the document and the court retains the judge’s signed copy for the court file. A number of copies of the order are provided to the Plaintiff and Defendant. One copy is initialed and stamped by the Court Clerk as a “Duplicate Original”. The Plaintiff has no control over where this stamp is placed.
Hopefully, for the landlord’s sake, the stamp does not interfere with or cover any part of the case number on the court order. Although a landlord may present certified copies of such a court order, the Sheriff can refuse that order. If that happens, the landlord will have to appear again in front of the eviction judge – wasting more time in an already overburdened system – to obtain a new, “clean” court order that can be placed for eviction with the Sheriff.
I can’t say what the policy is behind the Sheriff’s refusal to enforce these kinds of orders. I suspect that his office might suggest that they are just being thorough. Of course, no one wants people wrongfully evicted – that’s why good landlords go to eviction court rather than using less legal methods. The problem comes from the fact that the Sheriff’s rules are more about form than substance and are not well coordinated with the Circuit Court. This leads to inefficiency and a waste of time for the judges, attorneys, landlords, and landlords and allows an even greater delay for tenants who have been ordered out of a property.