Log In

Reset Password

Court fees to increase for first time in 60 years

Time for change: Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General (File photograph)

Fees for litigants filing legal documents with the courts are to increase for the first time in 60 years, bringing Bermuda more in line with other jurisdictions.

The hikes are expected to bring in an extra $750,000 per year to government coffers, and will be used to “support the considerable cost of facilitating the justice system”.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform, said the outdated fee rates generated between $17,000 and $24,000 per year since 2020, and the changes were “long overdue”.

Ms Simmons said that the Government had consulted with the heads of all three courts — Magistrates’ Court, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal — and that final numbers had been ratified by Narinder Hargun, the Chief Justice. They have also been approved by Rena Lalgie, the Governor.

Ms Simmons told MPs on Friday: “We are all starkly aware of the need to increase the island’s revenue stream to assist in stabilising our economy.

“Remarkably, there has not been any increase in any of our domestic court fees in almost 60 years.

“It should therefore come as no surprise that research has shown that Bermuda’s current fee schedule for the payment of court fees is manifestly low, especially when compared to other British Overseas Territories.”

Ms Simmons emphasised that “access to justice” had been taken into account when revising the figures. As a result, the bulk of the increases will come from higher commercial court fees, where hearings between large corporations with deeper pockets are held.

Pointing out that corporate litigants would face “significant increases”, Ms Simmons said: “Commercial litigation often has greater financial outcome and is more demanding upon the justice system.”

She added that the number and complexity of court matters had increased, and that new fee scales had to be developed.

The change was backed by the opposition One Bermuda Alliance.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, and a lawyer with Conyers, Dill & Pearman, said: “I should welcome this as a cause for celebration as I’ve been banging on about this since I joined this House in 2018.”

Mr Pearman applauded the fact that increases would be carried mainly by corporate litigants — “by and large at least four times more” — rather than by private citizens paying their own way in seeking justice.

Mr Pearman said: “It is right that our excellent commercial courts, with these businesses bring million-dollar if not billion-dollar claims and taking a great deal of time away from the court and using a great deal of the court’s resources and energy, should probably pay for the use of the court and to assist its sister courts in the family court and the criminal court.”

Mr Pearman added that the changes represent an opportunity to streamline and simplify the court fee system “which unfortunately doesn’t appear to have been taken up”.

He also suggested that fees in commercial courts could have been increased even more if they were linked to the value of the claim.

As high-profile, billion-dollar lawsuits “sucked out the air” from the court system, he said: “We could have recognised that, when there is a billion-dollar claim, that should pay a higher fee than when there is a claim for $50,000.

“That is perfectly fair and perfectly proper and would have brought greater resources into our commercial courts, which could then support our family court and our criminal court.

“It’s a missed opportunity and I hope that it will be given greater consideration so that hopefully eventually we will see that very real solution come into effect here.”

The new fees will come into effect once they are signed off by the Chief Justice after approval from the Senate.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published May 24, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated May 24, 2023 at 7:29 am)

Court fees to increase for first time in 60 years

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon