Access to justice: Lawyers' costs when acting pro bono in public interest litigation
Document Type Journal Article
Lauchland, Kay (2003) Access to justice: Lawyers' costs when acting pro bono in public interest litigation. The National Legal Eagle, April 2003, pp. 12-16.
Copyright ©The Law Society of New South Wales , 2003.
Reproduced with permission.
Remember, in Australia, everyone is subject to the law, including the Prime Minister and the lawyers and each claimant for refugee status; even Queen Elizabeth II is subject to laws. Everyone who disputes the actions of the government and can raise a legitimate legal17 question about the use of government power is entitled to be heard by a court. Every litigant is entitled to be represented by a lawyer. But what if a litigant cannot get to the court? What if he is mentally disabled? What if she is in a coma after a car accident? What if he is a refugee on a boat miles from the mainland? In the Tampa case, it was argued, the refugees (and the ship which rescued them and its crew and cargo) were effectively being held captive by the Australian Government by use of miliary force. They were unable to communicate with Australians concerned about their welfare. The lawyers tried to offer them advice, and seek instructions to act, but were prevented by the government and the ship’s owners and captain from talking to the refugees. in many situations, where someone cannot instruct a lawyer, the court allows someone else to act and speak for that person (perhaps a parent who will employ a lawyer, sometimes just a lawyer). If the person concerned cannot give instructions, then the representatives must act in their best interests, as adjudged by the court.18 In the case of alleged improper detention, even a stranger may apply for a writ of habeas corpus, because the liberty of the individual must be protected. So everyone should be able to be represented before an appropriate court. But what if you cannot pay a lawyer?