The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would remove a barrier to justice for low-income Alabamians. SB 30, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, heads to the Senate, which could vote as soon as Thursday. (March 21 update: That’s exactly what happened. The Senate voted 28-0 for the bill, which now goes to the House.)
SB 30 would expand access to circuit and district courts for Alabamians who cannot afford to pay civil filing fees. The bill would let indigent plaintiffs file an affidavit swearing that financial hardship makes them unable to afford filing fees. Then the court would determine whether the claim is valid. If it is, the court would wait until the end of the proceeding to assess that fee.
All too often, Alabamians who cannot afford the required hundreds of dollars in fees to put their case before a judge are stuck on the outside of the justice system. As a result, those fees could force a person with a winning case to watch as the statute of limitations for their claim expires, just because court fees are unaffordable. Arise supports SB 30 because it would prevent those miscarriages of justice and make Alabama’s justice system more equitable.