Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Court Fees and General Rule 34 in Washington State

Court fees can be a barrier to justice. Forget about hiring a lawyer; if you can't even afford to pay the fee that a court may charge to file a case, you don't have equal access to the protections of law.
Here in Washington State, we've made a small step to deal with this:
As evidence of its desire to help low-income people with civil legal needs access the courts, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously adopted a new court rule, General Rule 34 ( ), that provides standards and procedures for waiver of court and clerks’ fees and charges in civil cases on the basis of indigency. The rule became effective December 31, 2010.
GR 34 streamlines and provides uniform, statewide in forma pauperis motion procedures and standards that should benefit both low-income litigants and their pro bono counsel by facilitating entry of court orders waiving such fees and surcharges. The rule, which was proposed by the WSBA, provides for waivers of “filing fees or surcharges the payment of which is a condition precedent to a litigant’s ability to secure access to judicial relief from a judicial officer in the applicable trial court.” A summary of the new rule and further details about it are available online  at --- Press release from the Washington State Bar Association
Getting this rule in place took a long time and a lot of effort, since anything involving money also involving complications from competing interests. However, it's now done, thanks in part to the work of the WSBA Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee, among many others. It's nice to see progress in closing the justice gap!

No comments: