Additional or increased filing fees should be considered, but only after an adequate review of the distribution of the current filing fee revenue has been made.
Any additional fees should be assessed only if there is no chilling effect on Florida citizens’ right of access to the court system, and only in an amount necessary to properly fund court operations so that access is assured.
The funding gap between what Florida courts need and what they get exists even though Florida currently charges an initial civil filing fee that ranks second highest in the nation. Those two facts together underscore the need to reassess the distribution of filing fee revenue.
If such additional fees are instituted, studies from other states indicate that the following sorts of fees are fairly common:
- An increased filing fee to reopen cases for dissolution and child support (non Title IV-D). These modifications often take as much or more judicial time and court resources than the initial filing. Requests for waivers of such fees based on the parties’ ability to pay should be allowed.
- A filing fee for all repeat violence cases. Very few of the cases currently being filed are legitimate claims of repeat violence. Litigants are filing many different types of complaints under the repeat violence category to avoid a filing fee. Fifty-six percent (56%) of the current cases are dismissed either prior to or after the hearing. Imposition of this fee would increase docket efficiency by reducing the number of cases inappropriately filed, allowing judges more time to hear legitimate issues of domestic, dating, and sexual violence.
- A new filing fee for selected motions that involve significant judicial workload in the civil and probate divisions of court. This new fee would help offset costs but also might help discourage the filing of unproductive motions; for example, unwarranted discovery motions. Judges would be able to award costs to the prevailing party so as not to discourage meritorious motions. A majority of the other states already impose some form of fees on selected motions.
- A sliding scale fee for probate and guardianship cases based on case value. Probate and guardianship cases involving substantial amounts of property require a significant amount of court resources which could be partially offset by a sliding scale fee.
- New fees in the appellate courts for pre-opinion and post-opinion motions, a new fee for amicus curiae briefs, a fee increase for cross appeal/joinder/intervenor filings, and a new service charge for file review. These fees and service charges would help offset the cost of court resources required to address these filings and services.
- A reschedule fee in civil cases when hearings are cancelled without reasonable notice. If adequate notice is not given, judges’ staff do not have time to arrange for other cases to be scheduled during that vacated block of time. The new fee would also discourage the practice of cancelling without adequate notice.