Federal courts are finalizing preparations for the introduction of a regulation that would levy significantly higher verdict fees on petitioners seeking justice for civil cases.
The move is part of a series of judicial reforms introduced by the Federal Supreme Court following the ratification of the Federal Courts Proclamation three years ago. If approved, it would see the first change in court verdict fees since they were first set during the reign of Emperor Haile Silassie I seven decades ago.
The draft regulation proposes to impose fees of between one and 10 percent, depending on the size of the legal claim in question. The maximum 10 percent fee would apply to civil cases involving up to 20,000 birr. The fee falls by a percentage point for cases involving between 20,001 and 40,000 birr.
Cases involving between 900,001 and one million birr will carry a 4.2 percent fee, according to the draft. Any case involving more than one billion birr would entail a one percent fee. The settlement of big civil suits could potentially see courts rake in tens of millions of birr at a time.
The proposed changes are a major departure from the prevailing practice in place since 1953. Courts currently set fixed fees for any cases involving between 10 and 100,000 birr, with the fee rising proportionally.
The regulation would see fees double or more in most cases.
Some categories of civil suits are exempt from the fees. These include family issues, human rights cases involving children, cases involving the elderly, as well as women’s rights, are exceptions. Other cases are subject to the verdict fees, as well as filing fees that vary depending on court hierarchy.
The regulation is under review by Parliament following its tabling to the Committee for Legal and Justice Affairs, chaired by Etsegenet Mengistu.
The Committee held a consultative meeting with stakeholders to expedite the approval of the regulation yesterday. The discussions this week involved Tewodros Mihret, president of the Federal Supreme Court, and the heads of the other two federal courts.