Bill expands judges' discretion over fees in frivilous lawsuits

A bill that gives judges more discretion to deny fee waivers for people who file multiple frivolous lawsuits was among those passed by the General Assembly Wednesday in the last hours of the legislative session.

The bill, as originally submitted by state Rep. Timothy Bowles, D-Preston, would have required people seeking monetary damages in civil lawsuits to perform community service if they could not afford the $300 filing fees and marshal's fees.

The community service requirement was removed after a public hearing. Bowles said there was a lot of negotiation, and state Rep. Rosa C. Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, a member of the Judiciary Committee, took the lead in crafting the language of the bill that ultimately passed.

"The issue was to create some statutory authority to allow more judicial discretion," Bowles said. "There is really just a handful of cases that are really egregious. Hopefully it will provide judges some discretion without denying access."

The bill gives judges latitude to deny a fee waiver application if the applicant repeatedly has filed actions with respect to the same or similar matters or has demonstrated an extended pattern of frivolous filings, and when granting a fee waiver application would constitute a flagrant misuse of judicial branch resources.

Wyatt W. Kopp of Gales Ferry, who proposed the bill to Bowles, said he was pleased it had passed.

"I think it is a badly needed reform," he said. "I think it will solve the problems with the most egregious abuses of the system."

k.florin@theday.com

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