Increased Virginia Court Filing Fees
According to recent reports, it would cost more to file a civil lawsuit in Virginia circuit court than in any other state, if a bill passed by the Senate makes it through the House of Delegates.
A survey by the National Center for State Courts alleges that the circuit court fees in Senate Bill 329 ($500 to file a case involving less than a $1 million and $1,000 for a suit) would put Virginia at the top. Right now its less than 100 bucks to file a suit for less than $50,000.00. Soon it could be $500.00.
The amount of this increase is as embarrassing as it is dramatic. Clearly, the hope is that by initially asking to increase it by this staggering sum it will ultimately be increased by a significant amount. I can say with certainty that a number of litigants will simply be prevented from filing necessary and meritorious lawsuits as a result of any such increase.
I have always been proud of Virginia's reasonable filing fees and thus financially non-discriminatory access to its Courts. Its sad that we have become so desperate that we look to these kinds of alternatives. Ones in which certain legislators know that there is no particularly powerful lobby that will prevent an enactment but the effect will be sweeping. They do so with an utter disregard for the inherently negative impact on potential litigants and a system that is already oft-cast as unfavorable and one-sided
I would urge those who have the initial reaction that "maybe it will stop people from suing and that cant be a bad thing" to reconsider. We aren't just talking about suing your buddy because he didn't pay the money you lent him. Any individual that seeks monetary damages because their house was built badly, any person that was injured by the neglect of another, any person that is attempting to recover property or the value of same, and any business that seeks to collect money for any reason will be subject to this filing fee, along with a litany of other examples. The ultimately result will be an increase in the cost of litigation as a whole. Something we surely don't need. The amount an attorney will require upfront will increase dramatically and this will prevent many wronged people from coming forward at all.
This year in our legislature I have heard repeated assertions that fundamental rights are being violated because we cant take guns into bars or buy certain guns more than once a month. Yet, here we are talking about a bill that could effectively prevent our citizens from exercising their inherent legal rights to file claims. Hopefully, the very same individuals that have pounded the podium in furtherance of freedom will see the negative implications of this bill and the threat it poses to the very rights they so vehemently seek to defend.