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Government & legal system

Challenging a Legal Aid decision

Internal review: Getting 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.

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 www.justice.govt.nz (look under “Legal Aid”). The form is called “Application for Reconsideration”.

Legal Aid Services must reconsider the decision unless:

  • you’ve applied outside the time limit, or
  • they’ve already reconsidered that decision or another decision based on the same issue.

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.

Time limit for applying for a reconsideration

Legal Services Act 2011, s 51

After you’re told about the decision, you have 20 working days (four weeks) to ask Legal Aid Services to reconsider it.

But they can 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.

Note: Only you can get a decision reconsidered – your lawyer can’t do this.

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.

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Legal Aid and other legal help

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

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

www.familylaw.org.nz/public/find_a_lawyer

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

Find a Legal Aid lawyer

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

This is an online database of Legal Aid lawyers.

Public Defence Service

www.pds.govt.nz

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

www.justice.govt.nz/courts/going-to-court/legal-aid

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

Applying for Legal Aid

www.justice.govt.nz/courts/going-to-court/legal-aid/contact-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

www.justice.govt.nz/Tribunals/legal-aid/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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