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Report No. 189

U.S.A

In the United States of America, the issues concerning the judiciary as a whole are dealt with by the Judicial Conference of the United States (JCUS). The JCUS has recently come forward with a Long Range Plan to guide future administrative action and policy development by the JCUS and other judicial branch authorities. Among its recommendations are:

"The Federal courts should obtain resources adequate to ensure the proper discharge of their constitutional and statutory mandates." The JCUS notes that "chronic failure to provide adequate resources puts federal judges in the unfortunate position of supplicants, constantly begging the Congress for funds". Reiterating its plea to the Congress that the latter should "refrain from enacting new legislation that adds to the workload of the federal courts without also approving sufficient funds for the judiciary to meet its obligations under that legislation", it also recommends that alternatively "Congress should be urged to reduce the judiciary's existing obligations sufficiently to offset the impact of any new legislation with a quantifiable judicial impact". (Long Range Plan for the Federal Courts, Chapter 8 'Resources', p. 94)

The JCUS has unambiguously expressed its view against increase of user fees to meet additional costs of administration of justice. Its recommendation in this regard is that "the federal courts, including the bankruptcy courts, should obtain funding primarily through general appropriations." (page 95) This is how the JCUS explains its recommendation (pages 95-96):

"Federal courts are an indispensable forum for the protection of individual constitutional rights; their costs are properly borne by all citizens. Unlike other governmental operations such as national parks, for which substantial funding through user fees may be appropriate, the mission of federal courts could not be performed if users were denied access because of an inability to pay reasonable user fees."

"At least three reasons support continued reliance on general appropriations instead of user fees. First, given that the frequency of federal court filings can vary substantially from year to year, economic uncertainty about the amount of revenue that can be raised annually through user fees makes user fees an unreliable and, therefore, undesirable source of funding. Second, with that uncertainty, constant fee adjustments might be necessary in order to sustain ongoing judicial programs. Finally, and most importantly, litigants should not be so burdened with fees as to effectively eliminate the access of some low and moderate income users to our federal forum."

The position in the United States of America is that full cost recovery is not a favoured method of meeting costs of administration of justice. The persistent recommendation has been that these costs should be met through general appropriations.



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