On May 16, the cost to register a trade name in Dawson County Superior Court was $30.
That jumped to $155 the next day, when a new state law signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue took effect.
Local court officials want residents to know the increases are state mandated and urge anyone planning to file processes in Magistrate, Probate and Superior Court to call ahead for the cost.
Dawson County Interim Clerk of Court Pam Henson said the general consensus among those filing actions has been surprise.
“People who file with us on a regular basis have mostly been shocked by the increases,” she said.
Other court costs on the rise include the fee to file a civil action in Superior Court and a subpoena, which increased from $1 to $5.
Lawmakers say the fee hikes will help the state’s financially strapped judicial system.
“The big thing that’s a surprise to everybody is that tucked in the bill is the cost of copying — $10 a page for copies for appeals that used to be $1.50 a page,” said Mike Berg, chairman of the Dawson County commission.
A 5,000-page appeal that once cost $7,500 will now cost $50,000.
“That’s an astronomical amount,” Berg said.
A local attorney said the increase could prohibit many people from being able to file and appeal.
“When the legislature passes these kind of fee increases, they ration justice,” said Gainesville attorney Wyc Orr.
Legislators passed a similar law several years ago that was intended to direct additional funding to indigent defense.
“It’s the same thing. They collected $48 million and only gave us $42 million,” said Berg, who also chairs the state’s public defender council. “The other $6 million they took and kept, put in the general fund and spent it.”
Berg doesn’t expect funds generated by the new law to be allocated for indigent defense either.
“The general response is that it’s supposed to pay for judicial expenses, and they’ve not made any determinations as to how much goes to what,” he said.
A few dollars are expected to come back to the county.
The county will keep the increase in sheriff’s fees and $50 of the fees from lawsuits filed in Magistrate Court, but no portion of fees for cases filed in Superior Court.
Chief Magistrate Lisa Thurmond said the new law could increase the work load in her court, since it will be less expensive to file in the lower court than in Superior Court.
“The jurisdictional limit is $15,000, and we may see more of that since it is cheaper to file in Magistrate Court,” she said.
Thurmond said she doesn’t expect a serious impact on the small claims court.
“It is a little shock when you come in and you’ve been paying this amount for so long and it’s gone up, but people haven’t been upset about it,” Thurmond said.
“They realize that the money from Magistrate Court is going to the county governing body so they’re OK with that.”
DCN Regional Staff Stephen Gurr contributed to this story.