CHICAGO (CBS) — Every day, countless people go to small claims court to try to collect a debt, but they can’t until someone like Eddie Jackson finds the person who owes them money.
Jackson is a process server, and it’s his job to officially notify people who have been named as a defendant in a lawsuit.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory tagged along on his quest for justice in Kane County.
You don’t want Eddie Jackson showing up at your door. He might be friendly, but his visits are often unpleasant.
He’s a process server for the Kane County Sheriff’s office. It’s his job to serve legal documents to defendants named in court cases.
What is most people’s reaction when he shows up at their door?
“Sometimes they’re shocked to see that they’ve been sued for whatever reason,” he said. “I do have some that’s very rude to me at the door, and I learned years ago that they’re mad at the position and the uniform, and it’s not personal, and it’s not me.”
That’s if the target being summoned or sued answers at all.
How often do defendants dodge process servers? So far this year in Kane County, more than 39% of cases weren’t served to defendants. In 2018, it was 44.5%.
That’s not for lack of trying.
Susan Kuta is frustrated that Jackson and his co-workers had to try 14 times to officially notify contractor Craig Newman of a lawsuit she won against him.
They couldn’t keep that up forever.
“It’s a big weight on manpower,” Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said.
A private investigator finally served Newman’s father on his behalf, but Kuta won’t see a dime until Newman is served with yet another legal notice.
“While there is a criminal charge, a misdemeanor criminal charge — for avoiding service, we rarely often see that charge; just because it’s incredibly difficult to prove that it is that person, in that house, who is in the back room, who’s refusing to come to the door,” Hain said.
Jackson said he simply wants people’s legal troubles from getting worse, so he asks family members to pass along a message to the people he’s trying to serve.
“I tell them, ‘You want to have that opportunity to have your say in court,’” he said. “It’s for their benefit, and they want their side to be told.”
Many civil cases can’t move forward until the defendants are served.
Hain said being able to officially notify people of lawsuits, subpoenas, and other court orders electronically or by certified mail would improve the county’s success rate. It also would cut down on overtime.
However, current Illinois law sets requirements on what must be delivered by hand.