Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr., chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, has taken on an important and worthy cause — reforming the federal rules to remove barriers to average citizens and public interest groups in the forms of financial costs and penalties. It is a move that should be supported by lawyers and lay persons alike — who should contact other members of the subcommittee and committee to convey their support. This is a bill that does not have any headline grabbing elements and, unlike Chairman Johnson, members may not see the value in supporting its passage. For that reason, civil libertarians and citizens need to rally behind Chairman Johnson.
Recently I wrote a column in Roll Call that proposed amending Rule 68 and Rule 39 of the federal rules. While I would prefer to limit costs on appeal to frivolous lawsuits (and certainly never to defend a victory below) and to bar the government from Rule 68 sanctions, this legislation would go a long way in removing the barriers presented to litigants. It would allow courts to make the decision — a position that should be unassailable. Courts would simply be allowed to consider all of the record in determining whether costs are justified or in the best interests of justice.
Bravo, Chairman Johnson, bravo.
Here is the current version of the bill: Court Reform_xml
To amend the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure to ensure access to the Federal judiciary in cases where the interest of justice so requires, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Fair Payment of Court Fees Act of 2010’’.
SEC. 2. AMENDMENT TO THE FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.
Rule 68(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is amended by striking the period at the end and inserting‘‘, unless the court determines that the interest of justice justifies waiving such payment. For the purpose of making such a determination, the interest of justice includes the establishment of constitutional or other important precedent.’’.
SEC. 3. AMENDMENT TO THE FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE.
Rule 39 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure is amended by adding at the end the following new sub-division:
‘‘(f) WAIVEROFCOSTS FORCERTAINAPPEALS.—
The court shall order a waiver of costs if the court determines that the interest of justice justifies such a waiver. For the purpose of making such a determination, the interest of justice includes the establishment of constitutional or other important precedent.’’