Story By: Mark Trotter
Evictions are not among the in-person proceedings Tulsa County judges voted to suspend until Jan. 11 because of rising coronavirus infections.
Eviction hearings were previously moved to the Family Justice Center, which is not covered by a new administrative order issued this week.
Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation Executive Director Katie Dilks said continuing in-person eviction hearings makes Tulsa County an outlier.
“Having them in person instead of offering virtual or remote opportunities is really directly ignoring calls from public health leaders and calls from the Oklahoma Supreme Court at this point to use technology where it is safe and available to avoid having people gather in person when we’re facing record high rates of COVID community transmission,” Dilks said.
Evictions themselves are also a hazard at the moment. Dilks pointed to a recent study that showed infections and deaths rose in cities across the country after they lifted eviction moratoriums.
“So, we’re literally talking about life and death situations when we’re talking about eviction right now as we move into the winter and we know that people who are losing their homes are being pushed into unsafe and overcrowded situations,” Dilks said.
Dilks encouraged people who get an eviction notice to call 211 or Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma for help and potentially work out an arrangement ahead of a court date.
But if you have a court date, you must appear in order to avoid an automatic judgement against you. A court appearance is also required to file an application under the Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium.
More than 700 new evictions have been filed in Tulsa County since Nov. 1, with a total of 4,873 filed since March 15. Nearly 2,100 have been granted.