How Trial Fees would Affect Civil Justice

by C. Peter Rydell


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This analysis estimates how charging litigants, instead of taxpayers, for civil trials would affect the civil justice system in general, and poor people in particular. The analysis focuses on the economic impacts of trial fees: the monetary gains and losses experienced by plaintiffs, defendants, and taxpayers when trial fees are instituted. The study develops two models, one using a game-theory approach, the other a differential expectations perspective. The conclusion is that the effects of trial fees on plaintiffs and defendants are not very large (less than seven percent), due to the small proportion of civil cases that actually go to trial, and the relatively small size of court costs compared to total litigation costs (lawyer costs are much larger than court costs).

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