Even though anxieties are running high as eviction petitions continue to add up in the court system in Oklahoma County, actual cases filed so far since March 15 are not up to their normal levels.
The state’s record-setting number of filings for unemployment and a general sense of financial peril leave some wondering when an eviction spike will occur.
And, those who regularly work with the poor and homeless such as Dan Straughan with the Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance anticipate a “tsunami of evictions” eventually.
One data tool shows a little over 1,000 eviction petitions filed in Oklahoma County courts, which sounds high until compared to normal numbers filed pre-pandemic.
Those who work closely with the Oklahoma County courts are not seeing unusually high numbers yet compared to their normal caseloads prior to the suspension of court proceedings March 15.
Court officials say they expect to see a spike eventually, but considering the backlog of cases from the nine weeks from March 15 to May 18, the numbers represent normal activity so far had the courts been in session.
Normal court numbers
Before the courts were back in session May 18 there was heated speculation about the possibility of an eviction spike once courts went back into session.
But, in an interview with Free Press May 14 Presiding Judge Ray Elliott, who administrates the courts in Oklahoma and Canadian County, said that in Oklahoma County a normal number of eviction cases that come before Special Judge April Collins was 250 to 300 per week in normal pre-pandemic times.
That would come to 2,250 if each of the nine weeks kept pace according to estimates given to us by Judge Elliott.
As of Tuesday morning, one court data tracker tool shows that a little over 1,000 eviction petitions have been filed with the Oklahoma County Court since March 15.
That number comes from the Oklahoma Court Tracker provided by the think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute. It has a new reporting mechanism recently added for tracking eviction cases filed in each county since March 15.
Judge Elliott told us that Judge Collins “wouldn’t be surprised” to see a surge of cases as financial hardships from the pandemic continue to worsen.
But, so far, considering that the courts have not been in session for nine weeks prior to May 18, the 1,000 number is not as high as it would have been in normal times.
Catch-up but no spike
Mark Myers with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office (OSCO) talked to Free Press about their normal pre-pandemic numbers of Execution and Writ of Assistance/Forcible Entry and Detainer orders sent down from the courts.
The orders are the legal mechanism that commands the OSCO to give notice to tenants when they have lost an eviction case before the court and have to leave the premises within 48 hours.
Without his knowing what Judge Elliott had said in our interview, Myers told us that in pre-pandemic times OSCO processed “between 900 and 1,200 evictions” per month which falls in line with what Elliott told us.
Myers told Free Press early Tuesday afternoon the OSCO had done 23 evictions with 14 more to go all of which are from cases filed from before the pandemic. He said OSCO delivered those notices last week but waited close to a week instead of the normal 48 hours to carry out the evictions.
This week OSCO expects to start responding daily to orders handed down by the courts as they have done in the past.