Contract approved to collect past due court fines, fees

November 21

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and Will County Circuit Clerk Pam McGuire announce they have approved a contract with a top collection agency that will be assigned to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in past-due court fines and fees.

The state’s attorney and the circuit clerk have entered into a contract with Harris and Harris Ltd. and the law offices of Arnold Scott Harris to collect past-due court debts. The respected Chicago-based collections business and legal firm were selected from among a half-dozen firms that had submitted proposals.

“This contract will enable Harris and Harris to begin collecting debts owed by thousands of people who, for whatever reason, have chosen not to pay their court-ordered fines or fees,” Glasgow said. “These newly collected revenues will be disbursed to the county and to other municipalities, hopefully to cover the costs of providing court-related and law enforcement services.”

“We are constantly looking for sources of revenue to lessen the burden on the taxpayers of Will County,” McGuire said. “I feel this initiative will result in considerable amounts of money for the County of Will, local municipalities and the State of Illinois.”

McGuire added: “I realize this will result in a substantial increase in the workload of our employees through answering phone calls, scheduling motions, taking in payments and notifying the state of payment information. But this is a positive endeavor that will assist the county. I would encourage anyone who has unpaid court costs to come forward and pay them now to avoid future collection efforts.”

The Circuit Clerk’s Office estimates that defendants in 2005 ignored nearly $936,000 in felony fines, $246,000 in misdemeanor fines, $479,000 in ordinance violation fines and $6,600 for conservation violation fines. Collecting even a small portion of these past-due debts will assist the county and other municipalities as they grapple with tight budgets.

Glasgow and McGuire’s offices researched potential collection companies over the past several months. They settled on Harris and Harris for numerous reasons:

  • The company currently provides this service for circuit clerks in both Cook and DuPage counties and comes highly recommended by officials from both counties. 
  • The collections business is affiliated with a respected Chicago legal firm, thereby ensuring a legal and ethical approach to retrieving past-due debts. 
  • The contract allows for the monitoring of collections activities over the Internet in real time, allowing Will County officials to make certain the county is being professionally represented and that those who are contacted about past-due debts are treated respectfully. 
  • The team of professionals designated by Harris and Harris to service the contract exhibited an extensive background of experience and knowledge.  
  • The company helped to draft state legislation last year that enabled counties to add a small fee on top of past-due fines or judgments for collections purposes. The company is paid through the fee, which means local governments receive 100 percent of any past-due money that is collected.

“A great many of the people who are fined by our local courts pay their debts,” Glasgow said. “The circuit clerk and I are taking the steps necessary to collect fines from those who think they can shirk their court-ordered financial obligations.”