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Lawyer Logistics: California Filing Fees

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 27, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You’re finished with law school, you’ve survived the bar, and you’re officially licensed to practice law in the Golden State.

It’s time to sue some people.

If you’re a neophyte attorney at a law firm, you probably have a mentor who can guide you through the process of turning on your computer, using the electronic filing system, and finding the local coffee shop courthouse. If you decided to hang out a shingle and work for yourself, you’ll have to figure out the finer points of legal practice — like California filing fees — on your own.

That typically means turning to the Internet for guidance.

After a few minutes of research, you'll realize that suing people is not cheap in California, and every court has a filing fee.

How can you find your local filing fees? Go to the Judicial Branch of California's website to access the list of Superior Courts. After you click on the link for your county, you'll probably find a handy chart like this one for the Los Angeles County Superior Court's fee schedule, or this one listing the San Francisco Superior Court fees. (While most fees are uniform, certain fees vary in Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Francisco because of a local surcharge for courthouse construction; be sure to check your local fee schedule.)

But the fees don't end with filing.

If your client wants a civil jury trial, it will set both your client and the opposing side back $150. The fee is nonrefundable, even if the case settles before trial, and it's due at or before the initial case management conference.

If you choose to appeal the jury verdict, you'll be facing more fees from both the California Appellate Courts and, possibly, the state Supreme Court. (Just a heads up: Both the appellate courts and the Supreme Court have had recent filing fee increases; check the Judicial Branch website for the latest fees.)

Practicing law is not cheap, but finding your court's filing fees in advance can save you from courthouse sticker shock later.

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