cearta.ie

the Irish for rights

Access to justice when legal costs are high

Who's who in court.gifI have had occasion on this blog to repeat the old adage that justice is open to all – like the Ritz Hotel. I was reminded of it by two headlines I saw this morning.

The first is from today’s Irish Times:

Judge says courts ‘fearfully expensive’ and ‘accessible to few’

The court system is “fearfully expensive”, “alien” and “truly accessible to increasingly few”, a High Court Judge has said. The courts were a forum that should be engaged only as “a last resort”, Mr Justice Max Barrett added. … “Almost a hundred years after the opening salvos that led to the creation of our present Republic, we have now an expensive court system that remains alien to many and truly accessible to increasingly few.”

Update: Barrett J made these remarks in Traynor v Guinness UDV Ireland [2015] IEHC 732 (24 November 2015) [1], permitting the case to proceed, but recommending that the parties resolve the matter “collaboratively if possible, by mediation if not, by expert decision if necessary and, only as a very last resort, in this fearfully expensive forum” (id).

The second is from the Brief (a daily email newsletter from the Times, which will be made available later in the week here):

We can’t afford lawyers, says public

Lawyers and legal advice are well beyond the budgets of ordinary people, a survey published this week has found.

Some 70 per cent of respondents to research conducted by Citizens Advice said they would not be able to afford a lawyer to advise on a problem or dispute. Only about 10 per cent were confident they could stump up the cost of legal fees.

Other conclusions from the Report are that 1 in 7 don’t have confidence in the justice system, that low levels of support and advice are putting off some people from seeking to solve their problems, that more and more people are going to court without a lawyer, that negative experiences are leading to negative opinions of the justice system, that people’s bad experiences and perceptions of justice are putting them off using it, and that, overall, only 2 in 5 (39 per cent) people believe that the justice system works well for citizens. Also published today is a Report Card on Barriers to Affordable Legal Help in the US, which makes very similar points. The American Bar Association has established a Commission on the Future of Legal Services to “propose new approaches that are not constrained by traditional models for delivering legal services and are rooted in the essential values of protecting the public, enhancing diversity and inclusion, and pursuing justice for all”.

The recent Canadian Bar Association report on its Legal Futures Initiative – entitled Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada (pdf) – made a series of recommendations around flexibility in business structures, including the adoption of alternative business structures, and new models for legal education. In Australia, recent reforms in New South Wales and Victoria are intended to create a common legal services market, underpinned by a uniform regulatory system, to promote efficient and cost-effective administration of justice. Canada and Australia are on a journey down the same road travelled recently in the UK, where the destination was the Legal Services Regulation Board established by the Legal Services Act 2007.

Also on that road is the Legal Services Regulation Bill. If it improves the problems identified by Barrett J, by reducing legal costs, then its (long delayed, but now imminent) enactment cannot come soon enough. And it will be a necessary endeavour. Confidence in the administration of justice is at the heart of the rule of law. Access to justice is a constitutional fundamental (Greenclean Waste Management v Leahy (No 2) [2014] IEHC 314 (05 June 2014) [23] (Hogan J, upholding after the event legal costs insurance as serving important needs within the community by facilitating access to justice for persons and entities who might otherwise be denied it). Of course, the Bill (heavily amended, and now far more modest than the position recommended in Canada, or obtaining in the UK, New South Wales, and Victoria) on its own will be an insufficient remedy for these problems, but it is a start it might at least be a good start, and it may even be half the work. But that is all that it will be. Far more will need to be done. Much will depend on the Legal Services Regulatory Authority established under it. For that, we shall have wait and see. And, meantime, our expensive court system will remain alien to many and truly accessible to increasingly few.

4 Responses to “Access to justice when legal costs are high”

  1. […] is the latest entry in that excellent blog, cearta.ie, which is written by Eoin O’Dell, who points out (as this blog has done in the past) that the […]

  2. […] on the heels of my post on access to justice when legal costs are high come two […]

  3. […] have its work cut out in ensuring systemic reform of the Irish legal system. Other jurisdictions are much further down that road. Indeed, in the UK, as part of plan aimed at Boosting competition to bring down bills for families […]

  4. […] have already noted on this blog the comments of Barrett J (pictured left) in Traynor v Guinness UDV Ireland [2015] IEHC 732 (24 […]

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Welcome

Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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What I'd like for here is a simple widget that takes the list of feeds from my existing RSS reader and displays it here as a blogroll. Nothing fancy. I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

I had built a blogroll here on my Google Reader RSS subscriptions. Google Reader produced a line of html for each RSS subscription category, each of which I pasted here. So I had a list of my subscriptions as my blogroll, organised by category, which updated whenever I edited Google Reader. Easy peasy. However, with the sad and unnecessary demise of that product, so also went this blogroll. Please take a moment to mourn Google Reader. If there's an RSS reader which provides a line of html for the list of subscriptions, or for each RSS subscription category as Google Reader did, I'd happily use that. So, as I've already begged, I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

Meanwhile, please bear with me until I find a new RSS+Blogroll solution

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Eoin.

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