Civil court filings are on the rise in Pottawatomie County, according to District Judge Doug L. Combs and Project Safe officials.

“There’s been a fairly significant and steady increase in civil filings this year,” Combs said. “It’s a pretty substantial increase.”


Civil court filings are on the rise in Pottawatomie County, according to District Judge Doug L. Combs and Project Safe officials.
“There’s been a fairly significant and steady increase in civil filings this year,” Combs said. “It’s a pretty substantial increase.”
Increases include those regarding debts owed yet uncollected and protective orders, Combs said, adding that the economy is the primary factor for the increase.
“The economy is the big thing,” Combs said. “When it’s up and people are able to pay their bills, the filings are down.
“It all extends to a great extent from the economy.”
As far as increases in protective orders, Combs did not have a primary reason.
However, Project Safe officials said that increase is also due, in part, to stresses caused by the struggling economy.
“The stress that goes on at home due to the economy is bleeding, literally, into all areas of life,” Laura Ingram, administrative assistant and crisis advocate for Project Safe, said.
“It could also be that people are actually knowing what to do to take the right preventative measures to protect themselves.”
Heather Ariyeh, executive director for Project Safe, agreed and said the organization, which assists domestic violence victims with resources, including shelter, has observed more incidents of domestic violence in the area.
“In the past 12 months, since last summer, we’ve seen a lot more contacts than in the previous 12 months,” she said.
“Economic stress is proven to be a danger factor, a risk factor, of domestic violence, so when there’s trouble in the economy, we expect to see a rise in domestic violence cases.”
Ariyeh also said the number of domestic violence related deaths across the state is on the rise this year.
“In the first three and one-half months of 2009 there have been 24 known domestic violence related deaths in Oklahoma,” she said. “And in the last four days there have been four more deaths suspected to be from domestic violence although that is not official as that data is unknown at this time. There were 57 known domestic violence related deaths in 2008 for the whole year.”
Combs said the civil filings for protective orders were down last year but are “on track to be higher” already this year.
In 2007, there were 401 filings for protective orders, as reported by Project Safe. That number dropped in 2008 to 351 but as of May 27, there were 197 filings for protective orders in Pottawatomie County.
As for the number of civil small claims filings — those for $6,500 and below, Combs said the number rose from 1,867 in 2006 to 1,979 in 2007 and to 2,167 filings in 2008.
Other civil cases filed in Pottawatomie County rose from 1,311 in 2006 to 1,573 in 2007 and to 1,803 in 2008.
Many of the civil cases are for credit card debts owed, lack of payment to landlords by tenants, failure to repay smaller loan companies and foreclosures, Combs said.
“When the economy is bad, people’s stress levels go up and that leads people to do things they wouldn’t usually do,” Combs said. “A lot of it is because when you lose your job, you lose your paycheck and you can’t pay your bills.”
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Johnna Ray may be reached at 214-3934.