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Government & legal system

Challenging a Legal Aid decision

Appealing 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.

Legal Services Act 2011, s 53

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”.

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.

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.

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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Legal Aid and other legal help

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can give you free initial legal advice, help you apply for Legal Aid and find a Legal Aid lawyer, and may be able to provide ongoing legal help, depending on your situation.

Find a family lawyer


This New Zealand Law Society website will help you find a family lawyer in your local area.

Find a Legal Aid lawyer


This is an online database of Legal Aid lawyers.

Public Defence Service


This website provides information about the Public Defence Service. They can represent defendants in criminal cases where Legal Aid has been granted.

Ministry of Justice


Information about Legal Aid and other legal assistance schemes. Legal Aid forms are also available online.

Applying for Legal Aid


This page has the Legal Aid forms in PDR versions that you can download and email to Legal Aid.

Phone: 0800 253 425

Legal Aid Tribunal


Information about the Legal Aid Tribunal including what types of decisions that can be reviewed, how to apply and what type of information you need to provide.

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