Legal aid filing fee bill moves to House

A bill that would extend the $1 filing fee on civil cases submitted to Indiana state courts has breezed through the Senate and is now headed to the House of Representatives.

Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, authored the original legislation in 2012 that established the surcharge and funneled the collected funds to the Indiana Bar Foundation to support civil legal aid programs around the state.

Grooms again authored legislation this session that would continue the fee until July 2022. Senate Bill 42 has picked up bipartisan support and not met any strong opposition in the upper chamber.

Despite some questions in Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about whether Marion County small claims courts should be able to keep the $1 fee for their own operations, the bill passed on a 10-0 vote. Several members of the Judiciary Committee signed on as authors and co-authors, including Republicans Sens. Michael Young and Susan Glick as well as Democratic Sens. Lonnie Randolph and Tim Lanane.  

Once of the floor, the bill did not undergo any major revisions and passed third reading on a 50-0 vote.

The bill has been referred to the House but not yet assigned to a committee. A trio of southern Indiana Representatives is backing the measure. Republican Reps. Edward Clere and Kathy Engleman, from New Albany and Corydon respectively, and Democrat Rep. Steven Stemler, from Jeffersonville, have signed on as supporters of the legislation.  

Since the filing fee was implemented in 2012, the money brought in each year has ranged from a high of $409,118.59 to a low of $336,178.33. The funds have been used to cover the loss of yearly revenue from the Interest on Lawyers Trust Account, which fell dramatically during the Great Recession when interest rates bottomed out.

The bar foundation depends on IOLTA revenue to finance the 12 pro bono districts located around the state. Prior to the downturn, the revenue topped $300,000 a month in 2007, but since 2012 has hovered around $30,000 each month.



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