New Zealand Law Society - Law Society welcomes framework to improve access to civil justice

Law Society welcomes framework to improve access to civil justice

The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa recently provided feedback on a draft strategic framework to encourage a unified and coordinated approach to improving access to civil justice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In March 2020, the Rt Hon Dame Helen Winkelmann (Chief Justice), and Andrew Kibblewhite (Secretary for Justice) convened a workshop to discuss whether a strategic plan for access to civil justice would be helpful for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The discussions indicated that there is a lack of coordination and awareness of work being done to improve access to civil justice. Better coordination could lead to more collaboration, less duplication, easier identification of gaps, and the opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and failures.

A Working Group consisting of Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin, Hon Raynor Asher QC, Wi Pere Mita, Gabrielle O’Brien and Anne Waapu was subsequently appointed and tasked with developing a strategic national framework to encourage a unified and coordinated approach to improving access to civil justice. The Law Society made a submission on the draft framework with input from its Civil Litigation and Tribunals Committee.

The Law Society agrees there is a need for a coordinated approach to the mahi being undertaken to improve access to civil justice, and supports the initiative to implement a national strategy.

Wayfinding for Civil Justice represents a meaningful step towards improving access to civil justice in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the development of the draft strategy is welcome,” says Law Society President Jacque Lethbridge.

“However, the draft strategy should be improved by providing some additional guidance on the application of the principles, in particular, how the proposed goals are to be achieved,” says Ms Lethbridge.

The Law Society has also invited the Working Group to provide further guidance on how the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi are to be embedded into the foundation of Wayfinding for Civil Justice, and how Te Tiriti and Te Ao Māori principles are to be applied in practice.

The Law Society supports the principles and goals of the draft strategy, and in particular, the goals to:

  • Increase legal aid funding and address systemic issues with how legal aid is administered;
  • Encourage and enable lawyers to provide pro bono and low bono legal services (provided these services meet the same professional standards that apply to legal services provided for a fee, to ensure consumers are adequately protected); and
  • Encourage innovation in the provision of legal services (for example, through the development of regulatory ‘sandboxes’).

The Law Society has also identified some additional ‘suggested actions’ which could help stakeholders meet these proposed goals. These include:  

  • Ensuring that the regulation of legal aid services, and the administration of the legal aid scheme, seeks to attract legal service providers;
  • Increasing the number of specialist decision-making bodies and dedicated specialist courts; and
  • Ensuring that the courts and other decision-making bodies are housed in physical spaces which have the necessary capabilities to facilitate access to justice.

Read more about the Wayfinding for Civil Justice draft framework

Read the Law Society’s submission

Read more about the Law Society’s Civil Litigation & Tribunals Committee