For Immediate Release
Director, Media Relations
The New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow in Trenton about several bills, including A763
New Jersey State Bar Association President Susan A. Feeney will testify at the hearing in opposition to A763, which seeks to raise funds for various projects through filing fee hikes.
She issued the following statement:
"The New Jersey State Bar Association welcomes the use, ease and transparency that moving to an e-court system would offer. Likewise, the state’s largest lawyers group has been a long-standing supporter of increased funding for Legal Services of New Jersey, which fills an important role in providing free legal help on civil issues to the poorest of the state’s poor.
But a proposal that will lead to increasing filing fees charged to the public users of the court system, which is tantamount to a user tax, is not the way to do it. Traditionally, filing fees are a cost clients pay, outside of what an attorney may charge, to access the justice system. This plan will require that people who use the court system to have their disputes resolved – increasingly members of the public who are representing themselves – be responsible for funding the court’s technology upgrade and for subsidizing the costs of legal representation for the very poor.
The court system was established by the New Jersey Constitution for the benefit of all New Jersey citizens. The 21st Century Justice Improvement Fund will not improve justice. It will hurt people who need a divorce or child support, who have been discriminated against at work, who face foreclosure, or who have been in an accident. And, those who will suffer most are the thousands of people who each year turn to the courts without the assistance of a lawyer. Fewer than one in six low-income New Jerseyans can get legal help for any of their civil legal problems. In these challenging economic times, increasing the costs of accessing the court system will only increase the number of people who are denied justice.
A modern and efficient court system is essential, as is legal representation for the poor. However, shifting responsibility for a constitutional function from the state to the users of the court system will result in drastically higher fees for the privilege of enforcing one’s rights. In the end, justice will be denied to those who are most in need of the protection of the courts and least able to afford it."