Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Can't pay court costs? Florida has a new answer

You’ve all heard the saying, "No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session."

For the JD-impaired (that means the lawyers), there’s an actual case cite for the quotation: 1 Tucker (N.Y. Surr.) 249 (1866).

The Florida Legislature has concluded its 2005 session and, at least this time, a bill emerged that does some good for poor folks. HB 1935 addresses the determination of indigent status in civil litigation and a bunch of other stuff. We’ll call it "the judicial system bill," since the actual title takes up more than 13 pages (!!).

The whole text is available here.

The clerk is required to assist anyone who asks for help in completing the application.

An applicant is indigent if the applicant’s income is equal to or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. You can find them here.

There is a presumption that the applicant is not indigent if the applicant owns, has equity in, or has the expectancy of any interest in any intangible or tangible personal property or real property having a net equity value of $2,500 or more, excluding the value of the person's homestead and one vehicle having a net value not exceeding $5,000.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – the bill makes it clear that the progress of a court case cannot be impeded in any way for failure to pay fees.

Subject to the Governor’s veto powers, the effective date of this bill is July 1, 2005.


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