The following is an interested observer’s attempt to keep track of at least some of what’s happening on the ever-changing legal aid front.
Criminal legal aid
Fixed fees review
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has been consulting in relation to a review of criminal legal aid fixed fees. A consultation document does not appear to be available online, but see the MoJ news item “Review of criminal legal aid fixed fees – operational policy changes” (5 December 2014) here (which includes a PDF link to a document of the same name). See also the 31-page New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) submission “Criminal legal aid fixed fees review” (12 December 2014) and the related NZLS news item “Criminal legal aid provider shortages predicted” (17 December 2014).
There is also mention of the fixed fees review in an MoJ statement to the NZLS regarding the impact of December 2014 changes to restorative justice processes: see the NZLS news item “Ministry issues restorative justice advice to defence lawyers” (29 January 2015).
For the existing fixed fees and related MoJ documentation, access the Criminal Fixed Fee Schedules (December 2014) here, the Legal Aid Disbursement Policy Criminal (31 March 2014) here and Criminal Fixed Fee and Complex Cases: Guidelines (1 July 2014) here.
Eligibility for appellate criminal legal aid: Supreme Court appeal pending
The Supreme Court hearing in the case of Marteley v Legal Services Commissioner is scheduled for 5 May 2015. This concerns the correct interpretation of the “interests of justice require legal aid” test in s 8(1)(c)(ii) of the Legal Services Act 2011, in particular:
- the correct approach and weight to be given to the mandatory “grounds of appeal” consideration in s 8(2)(a)(viii) when appellate criminal legal aid is sought; and
- whether the overall fiscal consequences for the government of denying a grant of criminal legal aid is relevant in terms of the discretionary “other circumstances” consideration in s 8(2)(b).
For the litigation history behind the appeal, see: Re CG (Criminal)  NZLAT 41 and Re ET (Criminal)  NZLAT 041 & 111 (Legal Aid Tribunal decisions); Marteley v Legal Services Commissioner  NZHC 1278,  NZAR 875 (High Court appeal); Marteley v Legal Services Commissioner  NZHC 2748 (leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal); Legal Services Commissioner v Marteley  NZCA 185,  3 NZLR 143 (Court of Appeal judgment); and Marteley v Legal Services Commissioner  NZSC 94 (leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on the questions “Was the interpretation of s 8 of the Legal Services Act 2011 by the majority of the Court of Appeal correct?” and “Should costs have been awarded to the applicant in the courts below?”).
Family legal aid
Fixed fees update
The MoJ has published a new version of the family legal aid fixed fees document: access the Family Fixed Fees Schedules (December 2014) here. The related MoJ documentation remains unchanged: access the Legal Aid Disbursement Policy Family (31 March 2014) here and Family Fixed Fees: Guidelines (31 March 2014) here.
Vulnerable children proceedings: proposed fixed fees
The MoJ has been consulting on proposed legal aid fees relating to new orders and appeals under the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 (arising from the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Vulnerable Children) Amendment Act 2014). No consultation document appears to be available online, but see the seven-page NZLS submission “Vulnerable children legislation – consultation on new legal aid fees” (16 December 2014).
Civil legal aid
Employment matters: fixed fees
The MoJ has developed fixed fees for mediation and Employment Relations Authority investigations (but not for Employment Court proceedings), which will take effect from 1 March 2015. See the MoJ news item “Employment legal aid fees” (27 August 2014) here (which includes a PDF link to the document Civil (Employment) Fixed Fees Schedule (1 March 2015)).
As a consequence, the MoJ has also updated and published a version of its civil legal aid disbursement policy that will take effect on 1 March 2015. See the MoJ news item “Updated Legal Aid Disbursement Policy Civil” (22 January 2011) here (which includes a PDF link to the document Legal Aid Disbursement Policy Civil (1 March 2015)).
Public protection orders: legal aid eligibility and fixed fees
The definition of “specified application” in s 4(1) of the Legal Services Act 2011 was amended on 12 December 2014 to facilitate the availability of civil legal aid for proceedings under the new Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Act 2014. See the Online Insider item “Legal aid for public protection order (PPO) proceedings” (28 January 2015) for more details, along with information about the new MoJ fixed fees and civil legal aid disbursement policy update that relate to this.
Victims’ orders against violent offenders: fixed fees
The MoJ has developed fixed fees and related documentation for proceedings (and pre-proceedings settlements) under the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Act 2014, which came into force on 30 December 2014. Access the Civil (VOAVO) Fixed Fees Schedule (undated) here, the Legal Aid Disbursement Policy Civil (30 December 2014) here, and new forms 42 (tax invoice re VOAVO) and 43 (amendment to grant re VOAVO) here.
Family Legal Advice Service (FLAS)
MoJ checks on FLAS providers’ compliance with client eligibility testing has resulted in a few points of clarification: see the MoJ news item “Provider approvals of client eligibility for the Family Legal Advice Service (FLAS)” (1 October 2014) here (which includes a PDF link to the document Clarification on the Family Legal Advice Service processes (undated)).
For information about FLAS generally, see the MoJ webpage “Information for Family Legal Advice Service providers”.
Grants Manual updates
The MoJ has published new versions of two of the five documents that make up the “Grants Manual”: access Eligibility: Guidelines (January 2015) and Granting Decisions: Guidelines (December 2014) here.
Word templates update
The MoJ has released a new version of its Word template installer package for legal aid forms: see the MoJ news item “Updated word template installer” (20 February 2015) here for details and links.
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