One (Former) Legal Aid Lawyer’s View on The ‘Unfunny Joke’ of Legal Aid

One (Former) Legal Aid Lawyer's View on The 'Unfunny Joke' of Legal Aid 2
One (Former) Legal Aid Lawyer's View on The 'Unfunny Joke' of Legal Aid 3

LawFuel’s article on the lack of criminal lawyers practising in Mangere – and other observations made by Childrens’ Commissioner Andrew Becroft, prompted a response from long-serving Hawkes Bay legal aid lawyer Paul Harman.

Paul Harman – Where are all the lawyers – an almost farcical to ask that question.

One (Former) Legal Aid Lawyer's View on The 'Unfunny Joke' of Legal Aid 4

For me the Margeret Bazley (pictured, left) legal aid reforms, the Legal Services Agency capping of hours, increasing compliance costs in unpaid times of LSA application reporting, the inconsistencies / uncertainties of income, which is the same in the Ministry of Justice contract provider negotiations.

Dare I say the poster social justice advocates having done some of “XYZ” of the private lawyer survival competition move ASAP to secure tenure judiciary, with gold plated retirement super.

There is the exhorbitant (when compared with Australian States); costs of electronic legal data base accessibility ie Queensland $50 per month cf NZ $400 per month), the increasing fixed costs ( office/chambers, car parking).

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All of this and an increasing clientele who in addition to proper self-interest often demonstrate, in almost perfect parallel line with societies “me first” mentality an increasing sense of entitlitus entitlement to Rolls Royce service at whose cost – all in competition with non-criminal lawyering, legal polyanna, business government and local government employees.

To cap it off in the name of “increasing pubic confidence there is a NZLS complaints services which can simply hammer a practitioner into the ground.

And all of this is just investigative stage without any kind of quick and speedy alternate dispute resolution and without any “merit to grievance” screen process of complaint -community law centres doing, and indeed seemingly taking pride, in, no representation since their inception ( with local Law Societies encouraging this).

Ceasing Legal Aid

Despite new funding I see no change in that. All of this meant in 2012 I for one, and many others ceased all criminal pro bono work, and after 21 years Level 1 criminal legal aid with its inherent pro bono aspects.

In terms of civil litigation access to justice is in my view an exponential increasing rich versus poor divide and this scenario I describe poor civil litigant as anyone earning less than 50K gross. This alone my 33 years of concurrent High Court and above litigation experience which tells me when coupled with the “costs” awards regime, the new “civil electronic casebook protocol” means access to justice has evolved to such a level of high priesthood gatekeeping that social justice litigation is a nonfunny joke.

There needs to be a return to what 1910 Privy Council rules provided ( and was law in this country until Supreme Court Act) of in forma pauperis throughout the jurisdictions with a prelim before judge / justice that gives that party that issue an imprimatur of principled justice issue needing of trial of fact and law which neither lack of money nor lack of advocate status ought prevent happening.

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