Challenging a Legal Aid decision
Appealing to the Legal Aid Tribunal
How do I take a Legal Aid decision to the Legal Aid Tribunal?
Legal Services Act 2011, ss 52, 53, 55
If Legal Aid Services have reconsidered their decision but you’re not happy with the outcome, you can appeal to a specialist independent Tribunal called the Legal Aid Tribunal. Technically this is also called a “review”, not an appeal.
You can’t appeal to the Tribunal if you haven’t already asked Legal Aid Services to reconsider the decision.
How do I appeal to the Legal Aid Tribunal?
You have to fill in a special application form. You can get a copy of the form from the nearest Legal Aid office, or you can download a copy of the form from www.justice.govt.nz and search “Legal Aid Tribunal”.
You must apply within 20 working days after the day on which you received the reconsidered decision from Legal Aid Services. You can ask the Legal Aid Tribunal to give you more time to apply, but they will allow this only in exceptional cases.
It doesn’t cost you anything to apply to the Legal Aid Tribunal. You can also apply for Legal Aid to get a lawyer to represent you in your appeal to the Tribunal.
For contact details for the Legal Aid Tribunal, look on www.justice.govt.nz and search “Legal Aid Tribunal”.
How will the Legal Aid Tribunal make a decision?
Legal Services Act 2011, ss 52, 55
The grounds on which the Legal Aid Tribunal can overturn a decision are that it was:
- clearly unreasonable, or
- legally wrong.
Your appeal with be decided by just one person member of the Legal Aid Tribunal.
They won’t hold a hearing, and you won’t be able to speak to them in person. Instead they will look at all the different documents – which is called deciding the case “on the papers”. You can send them a written statement, along with any other documents and information you think will be useful.
But if you give the Tribunal any new information that Legal Aid Services haven’t seen before, the Tribunal may decide to send the issue back to Legal Aid Services for them to reconsider it.
Can I get Legal Aid for Legal Aid Tribunal reviews?
Legal Services Act 2011, s 7(1)(e)(v)
You may need to get a lawyer to help you fill in the application form when you apply for a review by the Legal Aid Tribunal. Legal Aid is available for this.
You’ll have to meet the usual requirements for qualifying for family/civil Legal Aid (see “Family/civil Legal Aid: For non-criminal cases” in this chapter). If you’re granted Legal Aid for it, you’ll be subject to the usual conditions that apply to Legal Aid grants.
What if I’m not happy with the Legal Aid Tribunal’s decision?
Legal Services Act 2011, ss 59-61
You can appeal the Legal Aid Tribunal’s decision to the High Court if you think the Tribunal got the law wrong. You can’t appeal on any other ground.
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