Marshals cash in on lawsuits

June 23, 2008 10:36:55 AM PDT
The jump in the number of foreclosures in Connecticut has proved to be a financial bonanza for some state marshals. One marshal, John T. Fiorillo of Bristol, grossed more than $2 million last year by serving legal papers to people being sued and homeowners facing foreclosures, state records show. Fiorillo got the jobs from two law firms, Hunt Leibert Jacobson of Hartford and Reiner, Reiner & Bendett of Farmington.

Six other marshals grossed more than $500,000 last year, including four who earned nearly all their money serving foreclosure notices for Hunt Leibert Jacobson and Reiner, Reiner & Bendett.

Marshals who serve legal papers on banking institutions, homeowners and town clerks' offices earn a state-established fee that ranges from $350 to $400 per service.

Connecticut's 217 state marshals are required to file annual income statements with the Office of State Ethics. A review of those filings by The Hartford Courant shows that 61 marshals grossed more than $100,000 in 2007. Another 53 grossed between $50,000 and $100,000.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office is looking into why some marshals are getting all their work from the two law firms.

"I think it is fair to investigate whether there are any conflicts of interest and to make sure that proper service of legal papers is being done," Blumenthal said.

Under the law, state marshals aren't state employees. They are independent contractors paid by clients to serve legal papers, mostly from civil cases or divorces. They are not judicial marshals, who are state employees assigned to provide courthouse security.

Almost all state marshals have expenses ranging from gas mileage to copying costs. Fiorillo, who has an office with clerical staff, lists more than $1.2 million in expenses, leaving his net income at about $878,000 in 2007. He did not return messages seeking comment.

Hartford County marshal Charles Ferrato, who grossed more than $865,000 last year, said the marshals' financial windfall is based partly on the bad economy.

"What you have to understand is that when the economy is bad, our business picks up. When the economy is good our business drops," Ferrato said. "The amount of foreclosures coming in is mind-boggling. This is why we're so busy. The court can't even keep up with them all."

Until eight years ago, the serving of court papers was controlled by elected county sheriffs. But following a several corruption scandals, voters amended the state constitution to abolish the sheriff system and turn the work over to state marshals controlled by a new State Marshal Commission.

Information from: The Hartford Courant,