Lawyers call for review of new court fees

General News of Monday, 9 March 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Georgina Wood CJ

Some private legal practitioners in Accra have described the new fees and allowances for civil proceedings as exorbitant and a disincentive to the pursuit of rule of law. The new fees that were released by the Judicial Service took effect from Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

They said while the fees were particularly high for the poor in their effort to seek justice, the new legal fees would significantly cause lawyers to decline to handle pro bono cases for the poor, most of whom they said had to depend on their lawyers to raise money to pay their filing processes in court.

The legal practitioners have, therefore, called on the Rule of Court Committee to review the filing fees as they asked the government and the Attorney-General’s Department to take steps to help people who did not have the means to file their court processes.

Lawyers who spoke to the Daily Graphic included Messrs Abdul-Aziz Mohammed, Kuuku Welsin-Jones, Ace Ankomah, Francis Xaver-Sosu and Ralph Kofi Bonin.

Currently, an application for probate or letters of administration for small estate attracts a fee of GH¢10 compared to the previous fee of GH¢2.50.

To apply for probate or letters of administration, an applicant would have to pay GH¢30 as against GH¢10 previously.

To file a notice of appeal against a final judgement or decision, an applicant will now have to pay GH¢100. The previous fee was GH¢25.

The fee payable for filing a notice of appeal against interlocutory order or decision is now GH¢70 against GH¢35 previously.

Mr Xavier-Sosu questioned the basis for increasing the legal fees. “It is going to be a denial of justice to the poor,” he said.

As a human rights and pro bono lawyer, “I have come across many people who did not have the means and I had to find ways to raise money to pay their legal fees.”

Mr Mohammed said in view of the new court filing fees, most people would most likely resolve their grievances by resorting to deities or the “let go way”.

“This is because many people, particularly the poor who need the court more than the rich, would not be able to afford the court charges,” he said.

Mr Welsin-Jones described the new fees as outrageous. He cautioned that if care was not taken, they would lead to a situation where aggrieved people would handle issues themselves, which could lead to a breach of peace.

Mr Kofi Bonin contended that the amended filing fees could be a reflection of the general economic situation. He said the Judiciary needed more money to improve on dilapidated structures and the provision of basic amenities.

Mr Ace Ankomah observed that litigation was expensive and to keep and manage systems and the new court buildings, both the government and litigants needed to contribute to that. He, however, conceded that the new fees were on the “high side”.