The Legal Services Committee monitors proposals that affect access to justice – including, in particular, operation of the legal aid system. Committee members are typically legal aid providers in criminal, civil, family, Waitangi and refugee law.
The Legal Services Committee is a longstanding NZLS committee. In recent years it has focused on primarily issues with the legal aid system. The committee has advocated on behalf of lawyers and their clients for an effective and meaningful legal aid system and to ensure access to justice for New Zealanders.
The committee also monitors other concerns relating to access to justice, including the rise in the number of self-represented litigants in our justice system. The challenges and impacts of that trend are likely to be an area of focus for the committee in future.
Liz Bulger is the committee convenor. Liz’s practice is principally in criminal law but she also undertakes work in the Youth Court, the Coroner’s Court and in other quasi-judicial tribunals. She also undertakes Parole Board assignments and has on several occasions been appointed as counsel to assist the court at Youth Court, District Court, High Court and Court of Appeal levels.
The committee comprises experienced practitioners:
In the past 18 months, the committee has continued to monitor the legal aid regime. The committee is very aware of the concerns of legal aid providers (particularly in relation to criminal, ACC, refugee and family legal aid) and has assisted the Law Society in raising key concerns with the Ministry of Justice about ongoing problems in the legal aid system (access to justice; viability of legal aid work; provider remuneration; lack of mentoring and training opportunities for junior counsel). Our regular communication with the Ministry also aims to resolve many practical operational issues, including:
The committee has also made submissions on:
Committee members have also been actively involved in the District Court Criminal Process Improvement Programme (CPIP), a Ministry of Justice initiative to improve processes in the District Courts with practical interventions. A number of workstreams have been set up with involvement from all court users including lawyers, Corrections, Police, and the judiciary.