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Government & legal system

Challenging a Legal Aid decision

Ask Legal Aid Services to reconsider its decision

Legal Services Act 2011, s 51

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?

Legal Services Act 2011, s 52

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.

Did this answer your question?

Legal Aid and other legal help

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice on how legal aid works, whether you might be eligible for the service, and the next steps.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Information on legal aid

See the Ministry of Justice website for more information about how legal aid and other legal assistance schemes work.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/courts/going-to-court/legal-aid
Phone:  0800 253 425

Find a Legal Aid lawyer

Use the New Zealand Law Society website to help you find a family lawyer in your local area.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/find-a-legal-aid-lawyer

Public Defence Service

The Public Defence Service represents defendants in criminal cases where legal aid has been granted.

Website: www.pds.govt.nz 

Find a family lawyer

Use the New Zealand Law Society website to help you find a family lawyer in your local area.

Website: www.familylaw.org.nz/public/find-a-lawyer

Applying for Legal Aid

You can download the relevant legal aid application form from the Ministry of Justice website.

Application for family or civil legal aid: www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Family-civil-legal-aid-application-191222.pdf
Application for criminal legal aid: www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Forms/Criminal-Legal-Aid-Application-191223.pdf

Reviewing a legal aid decision

The Ministry of Justice website provides information on how to ask the Legal Aid Commissioner to reconsider the original decision, and how to apply to the Legal Aid Tribunal to review the Commissioner’s decision.

Applying to the Legal Aid Commissioner: www.justice.govt.nz/courts/going-to-court/legal-aid/ask-for-a-review-of-a-legal-aid-decision/ 
Applying to the Legal Aid Tribunal: www.justice.govt.nz/Tribunals/legal-aid/legal-aid-Tribunal  

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