State Supreme Court changes rule to avoid fee increase

As part of a lengthy bill raising a number of fees statewide, the cost of copying files of cases on appeal would significantly increase.

HB 1055, which Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law on May 12, increased the cost to copy files from $1.50 per page to $10 per page – or from $750 to $5,000 for a 500-page file. But the state’s Supreme Court has created a work around aimed at keeping costs down.

While the court clerk’s office was previously responsible for copying and certifying the file for an appeal, “the parties on both sides of an appeal will together certify and provide the case record to the high court,” according to a Wednesday news release announcing the rule change.

“This is an interim solution to the problems created by the passage of House Bill 1055,” Chief Justice Carol Hunstein said in a statement. “I have been in communication with members of the legislature and the executive branch, as well as with the association of county commissioners, and I don’t think anyone involved in this legislation understood what the impact would be.”

Proponents say increasing fees will increase revenues for the state.

“Currently, some fees cover the cost of their respective service, while other fees fall incredibly short of covering the cost,” The Barrow County News quoted state Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, as saying. “Some state fees are regularly updated while others have not been adjusted in over 50 years. HB 1055 will correct these loopholes in current law and bring about 75 fees in Georgia up-to-date, resulting in approximately $96 million dollars for Georgia.”

But, some worry that raising the court fees will keep some from their “day in court.”

“I feel this law is just going to price a lot of people out of justice,” The Moultrie Observer quoted Colquitt County Clerk of Court Carolyn Marshall as saying. “They just can’t afford it. I think the folks who can afford it the least will be hit the hardest. … To me it is absolutely a tax on people who can afford it the least.”
Still, the rule change isn’t a permanent fix, and it remains to be seen what, if any, action state legislators will take next year.

“The whole purpose of this is to make sure the people of Georgia continue to have access to their appellate courts,” Hunstein said. “It is a stopgap measure until the legislature reconvenes next year.”

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