Since 1988, when Mr. Gegenheimer assumed office, the clerk of court’s office has made a special effort to minimize filing fees. Mr. Gegenheimer has kept court costs down by, among other things, providing for cost-installment payments by those who, although they are not indigent, cannot pay a lump-sum filing fee. A person whose annual income is $20,000 and who supports a family of four might not qualify under the law as a pauper, who would be exempt from pre-payment of court costs. Still, he/she may not be able to pay the advance deposit fee of $365.00 in civil cases.
Accordingly, Mr. Gegenheimer implemented a payment-plan procedure in which litigants pay as little as $5.00 per month to satisfy their court-cost obligations. Jefferson Parish is the only jurisdiction that employs this innovative mechanism. If everyone pays his fair share according to his means, court costs can remain stable.
Some people balk at this practice. They wrongfully contend that those who cannot pay an up-front filing fee should be exempt from payment altogether. If the complainers had their way, those who pay their court costs up front and as they become due would suffer a fee increase to compensate for uncollected costs from exempt litigants. That would be grossly unfair.
The clerk of court’s office receives no tax revenues to finance its operation. It has to rely on filing fees to pay its employees’ salaries and benefits. The clerk’s employees are dedicated public servants who rely heavily on their paychecks and hospitalization insurance benefits. The clerk of court, although he has kept court costs down by utilizing the aforesaid payment-plan procedure, has awarded his employees over $5,500,000.00 in raises and benefit enhancements since 1988. He has done this even though the clerk’s portion of court costs is virtually the same as it was in 1988.