The Judicial Conference of the United States recently adopted a new court fee schedule in response to inflationary expenses. It is the first increase in court filing fees in eight years. Fee increases will become effective November 1, 2011.
The income the Judiciary receives through miscellaneous fees allows it to reduce its annual appropriations request to Congress. Fees in appeals, district, and bankruptcy courts are affected, and expected to result in an estimated $10.5 million in additional fee revenue for fiscal year 2012. The new Miscellaneous Fee Schedule is available here.
The Conference also authorized an increase in the Judiciary's electronic public access (EPA) fee in response to increasing costs for maintaining and enhancing the electronic public access system. The increase in the EPA fee, from $.08 to $.10 per page, is needed to continue to support and improve the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The EPA court filing fee has not been increased since 2005.
Local, state, and federal government agencies will be exempted from the increase for three years. Additionally, PACER users who do not accrue charges of more than $15 in a quarterly billing cycle will not be charged a fee. The current exemption is $10 per quarter, so the expanded exemption means that 75 to 80 percent of all users will still pay no fees. Implementation of the two-cent per page increase will take a minimum of six months.
The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. Chief Justice John Roberts serves as its presiding officer. Its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, including court filing fees, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch.
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