MBA to challenge anniversary fees on Beacon Hill and in court

Issue December 2003

The Massachusetts Bar Association has formally decided to oppose implementation of the so-called "anniversary fee" and to work for its repeal.

Enacted during the last legislative session through Sections 497 and 502 of Chapter 26 of the Acts of 2003, the new fees of $90-120 will be assessed on civil suits or petitions in the district, municipal or superior courts that have not been resolved within a one-year period. Failure to pay the fee can result in a case being dismissed.

The unanimous vote to fight the anniversary fee came during the Nov. 13 meeting of the MBA House of Delegates in Worcester.

As voted, the MBA will:

•  Actively oppose and work to repeal the anniversary fee through legislative action, and

•  Immediately establish a committee appointed by the association's president to recommend other methods of opposition, including leading or joining a challenge to the fee in the courts.

"The intent of this fee is to generate millions of dollars in new revenue for the state, however the fee system is riddled with troublesome issues," said MBA President Richard C. Van Nostrand. "Not only is it a potential administrative disaster for our already overburdened courts, but it also unfairly singles out some litigants and petitioners to the exclusion of others.

"Given that litigants face 14-36 months of tracking their cases prior to trial in superior court, often through no fault of the parties, these new fees unjustly penalize them for something that is beyond their control," Van Nostrand said.

"Most troubling, however, is the potential for denying access to justice for indigent individuals who face having their cases dismissed simply because they cannot afford to pay the fee."

The presidential committee is expected to make its recommendation for further action at the association's January meeting of the House of Delegates.

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