Saturday, October 13, 2012

BUSINESS-KILLING CUTS TO STATE COURT SYSTEMS

As states and cities try to cope with reduced budgets, the court systems find themselves without the needed funds to carry out their business.  I had mentioned that many are turning to for-profit court systems.  In the meantime, the litigants (is that the right word?) are getting nichkeled and dimed in a sort of "no-frills" version of law and order.
In many court systems that have had their budgets cut, courts are passing more of their costs onto litigants. In Superior Court in San Francisco, court reporters used to be provided for free in civil cases — important because, among other things, a transcript is needed if a party wishes to appeal. Last year, the court shifted that cost to the litigants themselves in most civil cases. The daily court reporter’s bill can easily exceed $1,000.

A particularly common stratagem to compensate for reduced state funding is to increase filing fees. Since 2008, according to the NCSC, 26 states have increased their filing fees.

For example, in California, among the hardest hit state courts in the country, basic filing fees for a civil case have climbed from $335 in 2008 to $435 in 2012. For more complex cases, which are frequently business-against-business disputes, the filing fees have almost doubled, surging from $550 in 2008 to $1,000 today. On top of the basic filing charge, there are other fees assessed at various phases of a case, such as for filing motions.
Oh, you want a judge? Well, that'll cost you!

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