As Oklahoma is in the process of reopening after the Caronavirus shut down, it is a reasonable question to ask if the Courts are open. The answer is — well, that depends? Which courts and what do you mean by open?
The Federal Court system, which includes the Bankruptcy Courts, has had a paperless filing system in place since 2006. That means that as a practical matter, the Courthouse no longer accepts paper, and filing by computer doesn’t violate social distancing, so filings have gone on as usual — well, sort of. I am now reviewing and signing documents by remote using videoconferencing and electronic signatures, but actually filing the documents is the same as it was six months ago.
The Federal system has also moved to allow for telephonic hearings, and it has postponed jury trials and large evidentiary hearings.
The State system, however, is not so simple. The State courthouses have been closed to the public for more than a month. Filing of pleadings in existing cases and of new cases continues — by mail, email or fax. In civil matters, the only hearings being conducted are emergency matters.
All of that is in the process of changing, but every County is proceeding according to its own rules and its own schedule.
What my clients want to know is can they still be sued, what happens if they have a pending answer date, when can a house in foreclosure be set for Sheriff’s Sale?
Those answers aren’t easy, but in most cases court clerk’s offices have been accepting new lawsuits for filing. However, answer dates have been extended by order of the Supreme Court. Sheriff’s sales have not been happening, but I am seeing them being reset. Cleveland County has one set in early June, for instance. So, if you have had a house in foreclosure, it is worth it to keep an eye on your mail, the court’s online docket and your County Sheriff’s Sale list.