As Oklahoma courts reopen, judges, clerks and deputies are expecting to see a surge in eviction cases.
Over the past two days, News 9 has checked in with two of the largest districts.
Both Cleveland County and Oklahoma County will resume on Monday, but that doesn’t mean that these cases will end up in front of a judge immediately.
For instance, on May 18 close to 300 people are scheduled on the eviction docket in Oklahoma County.
That’s only a glimpse of what’s to come.
Staff in the court clerk’s office report normally a court date is scheduled from a week of receiving the proper paperwork, but currently court dates are being scheduled closer to a month away.
Deputies who will serve those notices are preparing for a spike.
“On a normal month, we do 900 and 1,200 evictions. Obviously, there is a lot in the cue. There are several that the court is going to be backed up for a while. We expect to be pretty busy in the next few months,” said Mark Myers of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.
He added that it could be months from now before some cases reach their desks because of the court backlog to hear cases.
Nonetheless, they have devised a plan to meet that need.
Myers said some deputies could be moved from other departments to help those serving the judicial branch. But there is not an exact timeline because the department does not know if the cases will flood in all at once, or trickle in slowly over time.
“We will be working with the judges’ office and the courts. But, as far as the process once a judge makes a ruling in favor of the landlord, once that’s ruling is filed with the clerk’s office, then we have 60 days to serve that notice,” Myers said.
The tenant then has 48 hours to leave, or they will be removed.
Cleveland County also expects to see more cases but does not have an estimate at this time.
The judges who handle small claims released this statement Wednesday:
Cleveland County will begin conducting in-person hearings the week of May 18, 2020, for all previously pending and newly filed forcible entry and detainer actions. All petitions for forcible entry and detainer filed on or after March 27, 2020, require compliance with the Oklahoma Supreme Court's Order Regarding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, SCAD-2020-38. At the present time, we have no information about the number of filings in the coming weeks, nor the number to expect following the expiration of the moratorium mandated by the CARES Act for covered properties. Cases will be considered, as always, by applying the applicable law to the facts presented by the parties. Pursuant to Oklahoma law, possession may be restored to the plaintiff after a notice to the defendant of not less than forty-eight hours. After that time, Writs of Execution may be issued following the judgment. The timing and procedure of serving these Writs will be determined and handled by the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office. -- Judge Napoli and Judge Brockman
In 2019, the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office averaged approximately 52 writ lockouts per month.
The sheriff also sent News 9 a statement Wednesday morning:
"We are aware that the number of writs of assistance served throughout Cleveland County could increase once the courts resume hearing those cases, but we have a plan in place, and we have every confidence that we will be able to handle any influx. This was a foreseeable challenge, and we have designated resources to ensure we are able to carry out our duty as outlined in state law." -- Sheriff Blake Green
Across the metro, many in and out of law enforcement know this pandemic has been a burden both on tenants and landlords.
“The big issue here is with COVID-19, a lot of people have lost their work. So, it is very difficult. Us knowing that, we are very sensitive to that. We will be doing this as respectfully as possible,” said Myers.
Many hope tenants and landlords can come to an agreement in the meantime to alleviate the system.
But if not, county commissioners report $47 million has been made available from the federal government to help.