The backlog of cases filed with the Legal Complaints Review Officer (LCRO) has reached such a proportion that a drop in the number of applications filed in 2014/15 has had a "relatively insignificant impact" on the ability of the office to make inroads.
This is stated in the LCRO Annual Report for the year to 30 June 2015 which has now been tabled in Parliament.
The proportion of reviews completed in over 12 months has also gone from 56% to 72% in two years.
The report says the major factor contributing to the delay remains a lack of sufficient judicial resource.
At 30 June 2015, 579 applications for review remained active. The Ministry of Justice administered LCRO says this was down from 626 reviews outstanding at the end of the year to 30 June 2014.
During the 2014/15 year the LCRO says it completed 325 reviews (225 were completed in 2013/14). The proportion of reviews which were completed in over 12 months was 72%. This compared with just 56% of reviews completed in over 12 months two years earlier.
Legal Complaints Review Office, year to 30 June
|Completed within 6 months||55||17%||36||16%||24||12%|
|Completed within 6 to 12 months||36||11%||46||20%||66||32%|
|Completed in over 12 months||234||72%||143||64%||116||56%|
The LCRO operates under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. Its specific role is to review decisions made by the New Zealand Law Society and New Zealand Society of Conveyancers Standards Committees on complaints against lawyers and conveyancers.
The latest report says the procedural design of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act has been a factor which has contributed to unnecessary delay. Matters needing attention which are highlighted are:
- A number of reviews are filed where the applicant has no immediate connection with the subject matter of the complaint.
- All applicants are able to receive a de novo inquiry into their complaint, and also have the right to be personally heard.
- It is an "unproductive use of judicial resources" for Review Officers to be diverted by applications which transparently lack merit.
The LCRO says that the major factor contributing to the delay remains a lack of sufficient judicial resource. It says the number of applications now being filed, the complexity of a number of the reviews, the comprehensive approach adopted by a number of review applicants, and the extent of the current backlog demands consideration of the appointment of additional Officers.
Applications for review filed, year to 30 June
|Standards Committee decision||194||257||324||364|
|Review of Standards Committee determination||195||4||12||7|
|Intervening with investigative power of SC||5||4||1|
|SC decision to refer to NZLCDT||12||9||11|
|Lay Observer review||355||0||0||1|
Of the reviews which the LCRO completed in 2014/15 and which were not withdrawn or declined for lack of jurisdiction, 84.4% confirmed or confirmed and modified Standards Committee decisions.
Outcomes of LCRO reviews, year to 30 June
|Standards Committee decision confirmed||191||101||130|
|Standards Committee decision confirmed but modified||36||36||8|
|Standards Committee decision reversed||29||21||15|
|Decision referred back to Standards Committee||13||22||13|
|Declined for lack of jurisdiction||7||7||7|
|Withdrawn or settled by agreement||49||38||32|
|Proportion confirmed/confirmed but modified||84%||76%||83%|
*One more decision related to a Lay Observer report. This is not included in the 2013 statistics.
The New Zealand Law Society and New Zealand Society of Conveyancers fund the LCRO through a levy imposed pursuant to section 217 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act. The levy imposed on lawyers in the 2014/15 practising year was $75. This was increased to $115 for the practising year which ends on 30 June 2016.