EDITORIAL: In fixing one problem, Legislature shouldn’t create bigger one

SHARE EDITORIAL: In fixing one problem, Legislature shouldn’t create bigger one
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The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

A good repair job fixes a problem without causing new ones. The Legislature needs to keep that in mind as it considers a bill to protect people who have purchased foreclosed homes.

As the bill is drawn up, it could unintentionally cause a serious new problem by undermining how court summons are served. It’s a flaw that needs to be fixed before this legislation heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

EDITORIAL

No one saw this coming when an appellate court ruled in 2015 that for a court summons to be valid, the name of the person who is served must be right on the front, instead of listed inside on a different page. Before a lawsuit is considered valid, a court summons must be served to the person who is being sued — or someone over age 13 who lives in the same household.

The 2015 court ruling allegedly prompted some people to dig through old records from the foreclosure crisis to see if some cases could be reopened because the summonses didn’t have names on the front.According to testimony before the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee, the people digging through the records were preparing to pocket up to 90 percent of any settlements or judgments in their favor, leaving 10 percent for the individuals involved in the original proceedings.

Suddenly, some people in Illinois who bought foreclosed homes from banks over the last few years feared their deeds might be invalid through no fault of their own. They can’t sell their houses — even those into which they may have poured renovation dollars — because of the cloud over the titles.

The Legislature is attempting to remedy that, which is a good thing.

But, as written, the bill would delete the requirement that an individual’s name be on the front of a summons in every kind of civil proceeding, not just foreclosures. If a person is handed a legal document in which their name appears only on an attachment, it would be tempting to unwittingly just toss it out.

Some lawyers worry all kinds of people could lose judgments in court without ever knowing they were sued.

The legislation has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but lawmakers have agreed to try to revise it.

They need to do it in a way that ensures no one is unnecessarily hurt in the future.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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