The University of Otago Legal Issues Centre is seeking a new Director.
The Centre carries out research on how to achieve a more accessible, affordable and efficient legal system for the benefit of all citizens.
The Centre is also examining how courts can best ascertain the truth and arrive at fair and just outcomes. The Centre is established through the dynamic vision and exceptional generosity of the Gama Foundation, together with the University of Otago Foundation Trust, to serve as the country’s first research centre focusing on improving the legal system.
Following a preliminary study of the time taken for general civil proceedings, Acting Director of the Legal Issues Centre, Professor Mark Henaghan, is carrying out the next stage of research into “court delays into civil cases” to investigate at which points in the process that cases have been “stalling” and examine the potential reasons for protracted litigation such as lawyer and litigant behaviour, a local legal culture not geared towards efficiency, lack of specialisation, finite court resources, and an increase in case complexity. Further study will also look to analyse the variation across different types of cases and litigants.
The Legal Issues Centre has completed two important research projects in recent months. A comprehensive examination of the New Zealand coronial system was undertaken and published by Professor Henaghan and Dr Jennifer Moore who was the Acting Director of the Centre at the time. The research, which also received funding support from the New Zealand Law Foundation, looked into how the recommendations of coroners have been acted upon.
In addition, a study led by Dr Moore that investigated issues concerning “complaints against lawyers” has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed periodical Psychiatry, Psychology and Law and will be available in a couple of months.
Research focusing on access to justice concerning the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) appeals process has been carried out by Warren Forster, Tom Barraclough and Tiho Mijatov. The researchers are working with the Legal Issues Centre to gain deeper understanding of the problems surrounding the ACC dispute resolution process with a view to meaningful and comprehensive reform. This research to date has identified that any proposed reform to the current appeals process must be considered in light of four existing barriers: access to the law; access to evidence; difficulties in being heard; and access to representation.
Ongoing research work is being explored to examine various aspects of the justice system that include the merits of wider use of the Disputes Tribunal and its procedures; psychological consequences of litigation; and difficulties faced by ACC claimants in dealing with adverse expert evidence. Doctoral research carried out by Bridgette Toy-Cronin is about to be completed on issues concerning self-represented litigation.
The Gama Foundation has further enhanced its support of the Centre with an additional generous endowment earlier this year. Professor Henaghan says, “Thanks to the incredibly generous support of the Gama Foundation, the Legal Issues Centre has a strong financial base for significant ongoing research. We hope to appoint a director within the next few months, who will continue to lead this important research and make our legal system more accessible, affordable, efficient and usable by a wide range of New Zealand citizens.”
Lawyers in legal practice or involved with public policy/law reform can make contact to share their views and experiences about the legal system in New Zealand and other jurisdictions and their interest in the Director position. Please contact Professor Henaghan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Richman Wee (email@example.com) who is the project manager providing assistance to the Centre. Phone (03) 479 5324.
Professor Mark Henaghan is Dean of Otago University’s Law Faculty. He is acting director of the Legal Issues Centre.