Legislative leaders to be honored for restoring waiver of filing fees for indigent clients

Florida lawmakers who helped pass legislation reinstating the waiver of civil court filing fees for impoverished clients will be honored jointly by The Florida Bar Foundation and The Florida Bar June 26 during The Florida Bar Annual Convention at the Orlando World Center Marriott.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, Rep. Darryl Rouson and Rep. Marcelo Llorente, all lawyers, will be recognized before the General Assembly of The Florida Bar, which convenes at 10 a.m., for their leadership in the passage of S.B. 1718, which was signed into law May 27 by Gov. Charlie Crist. Later this year, Sen. J.D. Alexander, a non-lawyer, also will be recognized for his role in passing the legislation, which removes Florida’s distinction as the only state without such a fee waiver.

The law is a triumph for access to the courts, as the fee waiver presented a significant impediment to those Floridians unable to afford filing fees of $300 for most civil cases and nearly $400 for divorce. In cases of domestic violence, the fee was one more barrier to a safe resolution for the victim.

A Florida Bar Foundation-funded study released last year by Florida Tax Watch recommended restoration of the waiver after finding that, in addition to limiting court access, fee collection from indigent clients was not cost-effective.

In addition to The Florida Bar, many groups had worked for the last five years to gain restoration of the fee waiver, including Florida Legal Services, the state’s legal services and legal aid programs, and the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.