The rule of law remains a fundamental driver of our society 800 years after Magna Carta was signed on 19 June 1215, the New Zealand Law Society says.
The convenor of the Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee, Austin Forbes QC, says Magna Carta remains today as a powerful symbol of equal justice, liberty and individual freedom.
“It was really the foundation of parliamentary sovereignty and the concept of the rule of law – which is the principle that no one is above the law,” he says.
“The rule of law is alive and well in New Zealand in 2015. Last week the independent World Justice Project ranked us sixth in the world out of 102 countries in its 2015 Rule of Law Index. This is a comprehensive assessment which uses 44 indicators across eight categories.”
Mr Forbes says all New Zealanders have the right to challenge decisions and actions of the government, officials and other agencies through the courts.
“They can be confident that if it is decided that a decision is contrary to the law or has been made without taking all contributing factors into account, their rights will be upheld. This is almost taken for granted in our country, although there is no room for complacency.”
Mr Forbes says the New Zealand Law Society also holds a special role in protecting the rule of law.
“The legal profession has always had an important place in the workings of our government. Lawyers have special privileges as well as corresponding obligations. The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 says it is a fundamental obligation of the New Zealand Law Society to uphold the rule of law and facilitate the administration of justice.
“This requirement extends to every lawyer who practises in New Zealand.
“Very few, if any, lawyers’ regulatory organisations in other countries have this role imposed by statute. It is a tribute to our system of government and an important safeguard of a concept which had its beginnings 800 years ago in a meadow at Runnymede, near Windsor in England.
“New Zealanders can be assured that the New Zealand Law Society will continue to monitor the impact of any legislation or actions which might threaten the rule of law in this country.”
Magna Carta Feature in LawTalk: A special feature in the latest issue of LawTalk contains short articles by eight New Zealanders who have been key participants in commenting on and helping to shape our constitution and legal system. They write on the subject "What Magna Carta means to me in 21st century New Zealand".