Auckland Community Law Centre’s (ACLC) Litigant in Person Pro Bono Service recently extended its operations in the Employment Court at Auckland. Unrepresented people considering a challenge to an Employment Relations Authority determination can now receive free advice about their case and the Employment Court process.
As co-manager of the ACLC I am excited about the new service and its potential to promote access to justice. The right to represent yourself is a fundamental part of a healthy justice system. However, the reality for lay litigants, the numbers of which appear to be rising, is that the process is too difficult to manage effectively.
The service is designed to support decision-making at key junctures and to help navigate the complex procedural, legal and evidential issues involved in litigation. The service is working well in the bankruptcy jurisdiction, where many lay litigants, and indeed their creditors, are seeing better outcomes than they otherwise would have.
The service runs a weekly triage clinic from the Employment Court and accepts phone or email inquiries. ACLC lawyers provide preliminary advice about merits, time limitations, and the benefits of representation. Eligible clients who decide to proceed with a challenge are referred to specialist employment lawyers for pro bono advice at various parts of the proceedings, such as preparation of pleadings, timetabling conferences, and trial preparation.
During its pilot phase, which is limited to unjustified dismissal and disadvantage matters, the service will use pro bono lawyers from the ADLS Incorporated employment committee.
Chief Judge Christina Inglis says Employment Court Judges are pleased to endorse the Community Law Centre’s initiative, funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation.
“The reality is that litigants in person often struggle to navigate the complexities of the court process. Early, and ongoing, advice, assistance and support can make a positive difference – not only for the litigant, but also for the opposing party and the court,” she says.
“The Auckland Community Law Centre has put a considerable amount of time and effort into developing the initiative, and early signs are encouraging. The generous involvement of the senior employment bar in Auckland is impressive, as is the broad base of stakeholders supporting the initiative, including the ERA, the New Zealand Law Society and the New Zealand Bar Association.”
The employment clinic runs from 2-3pm, Mondays, Employment Court Auckland. The bankruptcy clinic runs on list days, 9:30-12pm, High Court Auckland. Phone: 09 302 5343. Email: email@example.com
Darryn Aitchison firstname.lastname@example.org is Co-manager and Administration Practice Leader at the Auckland Community Law Centre.