Legal bodies allowed to intervene in High Court case with significant legal aid implications

“The question before the court is important in the operation of the justice system and to access to justice,” says NZBA’s president

Legal bodies allowed to intervene in High Court case with significant legal aid implications

Three legal bodies have been allowed to intervene in a High Court case with significant legal aid implications.

The New Zealand Bar Association (NZBA), Defence Lawyers Association of New Zealand and the Auckland District Law Society have been granted leave to get involved in the case of Fawcett v Legal Services Commissioner, which seeks to determine whether or not the Legal Services Act 2011’s definition of “legal services” covers work administering a legal aid file.

“This is a critical point because only the provision of legal services can be funded under the legal aid scheme,” the NZBA said in a media release.

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The matter is on appeal following a Legal Aid Tribunal ruling.

“The bar association adopts a cautious approach to applications to intervene but, as pointed out in the decision of Associate Judge [Kenneth] Johnston, the scope of entitlements under the Legal Services Act, and the consequences for access to justice, are of the first importance. We believe we can assist the court by our involvement,” NZBA President Paul Radich QC said.

He pointed out that the outcome of the case could impact not just the organisation’s members, but the public as a whole.

“In 2018, the bar association’s Working Group into Access to Justice identified non-payment of this type of work as impacting significantly the efficacy of the legal aid scheme,” Radich said. “Therefore, the question before the court is important in the operation of the justice system and to access to justice. It may impact our members and the general public materially.”

Wellington-based barrister and council member Felix Geiringer represented the NZBA on its application.

“The association is passionate in its commitment to increasing access to justice as it impacts in a real way on the rule of law and the overall stability of our society,” Radich said.

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