JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon sent a letter thanking the Missouri Bar Association for its support of his veto of two pieces of legislation the two parties say would dissuade some Missourians from seeking resolution through courts because of higher court costs.
SB 67, a bill which authorizes certain changes to courts, and HB 799, a bill which would change certain laws regarding judicial districts, both include passages that increase court fees to fund projects in certain municipalities, something to which both Nixon and the Bar are opposed.
Nixon thanked Missouri Bar President Reuben Shelton for his “principled and thoughtful opposition” to the two pieces of legislation.
“In addition to jeopardizing Missourians’ access to the courts, the proliferation of excessive court fees undermines trust in our judicial system as a whole,” Nixon wrote in the letter. “… Our courts must exist to serve justice, not raise revenue. The court fee hikes authorized by Senate Bill 67 and House Bill 799 amount to back-door tax increases that would further erode the public’s confidence in our judicial system at the very time we are taking meaningful strides to restore it.”
Shelton noted that courts should be used by everyone, not only those who could afford it.
“We support the building and upkeep of courts, but we do not believe capital improvement projects should be paid for by taxing those who seek resolution through the courts,” he said. “That’s because increased court costs can make the cost of access to justice too high, restricting access of ordinary citizens to the state’s courts to resolve legitimate disputes.”
Much of Nixon’s opposition to these two pieces of legislation stems from his support and signature on SB 5, authored by Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis, generally agreed to be one of the most impactful bills signed in the 2015 session. SB 5 modified a lot of provisions as they related to local government, including a change of restrictions to lower the amount of money from traffic violations municipalities could use to pay for operating expenses.