2022 Bills

SB 87: Waiving Court Fees for the Indigent

This bill passed the House 67-0 and passed the Senate 27-0. 

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it aligns with our principles and should therefore be passed into law.

When an individual is indigent, the Constitution requires they be given adequate access to legal counsel. And beyond that, they are given certain legal benefits in order to ensure they aren’t unnecessarily punished for simply not having the financial resources to comply with court orders. However, the process of determining an individual’s financial status is not cut and dry and can be discretionary.

Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Senator Jani Iwamoto, works to ensure the courts are given more guidelines to determine an individual’s indigency. It clarifies that a person is considered indigent if they have an income level at or below 150% of the United States poverty level. Additionally, they are indigent if they can prove they receive benefits from a means-tested government welfare program, including “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Medicaid.” If they qualify for one of these programs or they are assigned a public defender or can’t pay the court fees and costs, the bill states they may institute, prosecute, defend, or appeal their case without repayment of fees or costs.

This bill will help ensure that those who would otherwise be prevented from accessing justice due to lack of personal income will no longer be barred due to the inability to pay fees.