Challenging a Legal Aid decision
Ask Legal Aid Services to reconsider its decision
If you’re not happy about a Legal Aid decision you have the right to get the Legal Aid staff to reconsider it. They have to assign a different staff member to reconsider the decision. It can’t be done by the same person who made the original decision.
You have 20 working days (four weeks) after you’re told about a decision to ask Legal Aid Services to reconsider it.
Legal Aid Services might accept your application outside that time limit if there were special reasons that stopped you applying in time, so long as it’s not more than three months after you were notified of the decision.
How do I apply for a reconsideration?
You’ll need to fill in a special form. You can get a copy of the form from the nearest Legal Aid office, or you can download a copy from the Ministry of Justice’s website, here (or go to justice.govt.nz and look under “Legal Aid”. The form is called “Application for Reconsideration”).
Legal Aid Services must reconsider the decision unless:
- you’ve applied outside the 20 working day time limit, or
- they’ve already reconsidered that decision, or another decision based on the same issue.
You can ask your lawyer for help with this application. If you’re applying for criminal Legal Aid, you should ask a Duty Lawyer for help with this as they are experienced with this process (see: “Your first day in court: Free legal advice from a Duty Lawyer” ).
What kinds of decisions can I get reconsidered?
You can get a decision reconsidered if it’s about:
- whether or not to grant you Legal Aid
- cancelling (“withdrawing”) or changing your Legal Aid grant
- how much Legal Aid to grant you for your case
- placing a condition on your Legal Aid, like a “charge” on your house or other property (a charge is a legal interest that Legal Aid Services can register against your property as security for your Legal Aid debt. It means that if you sell the property, your debt will be repaid out of the sale price)
- how much you have to repay, including decisions about interim repayments – this also includes if you’ve asked Legal Aid Services to write off (cancel) some or all of your Legal Aid debt and they’ve refused
- enforcing a condition on your Legal Aid.
If Legal Aid Services don’t change their decision, you can appeal to the Legal Aid Tribunal.