H.R. 5069: Chairman Johnson Introduces Bill To Remove Barriers To the Courts

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

A BILL
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.’’

14 thoughts on “H.R. 5069: Chairman Johnson Introduces Bill To Remove Barriers To the Courts”

  1. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMR8MXNUV5g&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

  2. Hmmm…

    Isn’t this the guy that thought Guam would turn over and capsize…

    “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize,” Johnson said.

  3. It will never pass. The Justice department will claim that it will unnecessarily increase its costs of administration. Now, personally I would like to see it pass.

  4. I don’t understand the advantages of the legislation. Anyone care to elaborate, simply (for us in the peanut gallery)? LOL

  5. Maybe what the congressman has in mind is what I saw when a good friend was on the defendant side of the court.And what struck me was as beautiful as the courtroom itself was how unused the courthouse itself was,as compared to your regular municipal courts.

  6. AMAZING on so many counts!

    1. ONLY two (2) pages.
    2. As written, NO ‘pork’ (who knows if-when passed).
    3. The Court determines if costs should be waived, not a law.
    4. If (better still when) passed, FINALLY justice would be for all!

    Be WELL and be SAFE!

    Mrs. R A-W

  7. Doesn’t the bill as written presume a uniform understanding of “the interest of justice” among the judiciary untainted by any particular personal politics or dogma? While a rule like this might provide a rationale for a judge to unburden certain plaintiff’s that do not prevail, such as the recent case regarding the WBC, this kind of language hardly guarantees it will “remove barriers to average citizens and public interest groups”. It would though encourage forum shopping whenever possible which is something that probably goes on now. This could work to let the big players off the hook as well as the small. Just say’n.

  8. Professor:
    What does the bill say? Your blog entry is vague as to what is actually proposed. Perhaps the hyperlink may help.
    Regards
    A member of your very first 1L torts class at Tulane.

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