What's new for legal aid lawyers

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COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update to item

21/04/2022 – Please be advised that the below item of 19/04/2022 has been updated to include the 2 hour payments for duty lawyers, as these may still be claimed at the Orange traffic light setting.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update (19/4/2022)

19/04/2022 - As you will be aware, all regions of Aotearoa/New Zealand moved to the Orange traffic light at 11:59pm on 13/04/2022.

As a reminder, for all regions at Orange the following policies will apply:

·        Legal Aid will accept any applications that haven’t been signed by your client. Please sign any forms on their behalf and state the reason for not being able to obtain the signature and note this when submitting the form.

·        Legal Aid will be processing invoices from providers where preparation for a hearing/trial was undertaken and the event was not able to go ahead due to the changes in COVID-19 Alert Levels. These invoices can be submitted as normal and will be paid if appropriate.

·        The when a duty lawyer is rostered to be avaliable for the duty lawyer service, he or she may claim a minimum of 2 hours, or the actual hours attended, if that is more than 2 hours. 

Thank you again for your continued cooperation.

Web2text system is currently experiencing issues receiving text message replies

11/4/2022 - The Ministry’s Web2text system is currently experiencing intermittent issues receiving replies to text messages. If you do not have a response from Legal Aid services after responding to a text message, please call 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).

Free Communication Assistance Forum for lawyers – 13 April 2022

07/4/2022 – Communication assistance is a key tool to help court participants who have communication difficulties to access justice. The New Zealand Law Society Continuing Legal Education is running a free full-day forum for lawyers about how communication assistance works.

The forum will cover in detail how lawyers can recognise flags that may indicate that a participant needs a communication assistant. This is a key skill for all lawyers as part of ensuring their clients have access to justice.

The forum will then cover the practical aspects of the Ministry’s Communication Assistance Quality Framework.

Register for the 13 April 2022 forum. The forum is available to attend in person in Auckland and via livestream.  The livestream will also be available after the event.

The RSU Confirmation of claim form is no longer required in support of an LA application for first refugee/protected person claim. 

07/4/2022 –  A copy of the RSU confirmation of claim form is no longer required in support of an application for legal aid, for a first refugee/protected person claim to the Refugee Status Unit (RSU). Instead, you must provide the following information either in the Family/Civil application form at Question 33 (Why should legal aid be granted?), or in a separate letter:

  1. Confirmation that the applicant has signalled their intention to seek recognition as a refugee/protected person with details of the date, place, and person to whom intention was signalled.
  2. The applicant’s citizenship, immigration status and travel history
  3. Details of applicant’s family members (names of wife/partner and children), age of children
  4. Any prior refugee status claims in another country
  5. What the applicant fears in their home country including:
    1. events/circumstances that produced this fear in the applicant.
    2. information about the applicant’s country which makes the fear credible
    3. why potential alternative protection in the applicant’s country is not available
  6. What convention grounds the applicant relies on in support of claim
  7. The legal aid provider’s assessment of the prospects of success of the claim.

Changes to the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals

05/4/2022 – Please find below a letter from Carl Crafar, Chief Operating Officer, which outlines information on the changes to the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals coming into effect on 5 April 2022. It covers:

  • Changes to entry requirements for court and tribunal buildings
  • What’s not changing while we’re under Red settings
  • Expanded Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT)
  • Shedding and what this means for court processes
  • Further changes and Orange settings

You can read this letter here [PDF, 723 KB].

We encourage all legal aid lawyers to read the information in this document.

Thank you for your continued assistance and cooperation.

Additional wait time can be claimed by legal aid providers required to get a RATs at court before a jury trial

24/3/2022 - At the direction of the Chief High Court Judge and the Chief District Court Judge, the jury trial bubble guidelines will be used for the conduct of jury trials in the High Court and District Court. More information on the new Jury Trial Bubble Guidelines can be found on Courts of New Zealand website(external link) and in the What’s New for legal aid lawyers article below.

As part of these new guidelines, all participants involved in jury trials, including counsel, will be required to take RATs every day for the first three days of the trial and every second day thereafter. Counsel may need to turn up to court 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start of the trial in order to get tested before the trial commences.

For jury trial cases, Legal Aid Service will approve up to 1 hour of wait time for each day of the jury trial that you have had to arrive at court early for a RATs test. This can be submitted on your invoice without needing an amendment to grant. Your invoice should briefly describe that the additional wait time is being claimed for RATs testing for a jury trial.

Rapid antigen testing – guidance for private lawyers

24/3/2022 - The increased use of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) forms part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to Omicron. The Ministry of Justice recognises this response, and has increased the use and availability of RATs across our sites.

If you are symptomatic, do not come on site. You can access free RATs if you have symptoms or are a household contact, by ordering online at https://requestrats.covid19.health.nz/(external link) or calling 0800 222 478. The tests can be picked up at your nearest collection centre. To find a collection centre near you, visit: www.healthpoint.co.nz(external link).

Access to the court
Judicial protocols during the COVID-19 protection framework advise that people attending court must:

  • show a vaccine pass
  • provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test administered within 48 hours of attendance, or
  • provide evidence of a negative RAT administered within 24 hours of attendance.

Our court security staff allow the following as evidence of a negative self-administered RAT for building entry for all court participants, including lawyers:

  • Showing a negative RAT result within the last 24 hours on ‘My Covid Record’.
  • Showing a photograph, taken within the last 24 hours, of the negative test (showing the result panel and preferably at least part of the stick).
  • Bringing their negative test in with them (which can be disposed of at the court).  For health and safety reasons, this is not the preferred option. 

Please note, the judicial protocols and court entry requirements are subject to change as the COVID-19 protection framework is reviewed.

Duty lawyers
RATs are available for rostered duty lawyers, should they feel the need to use them. To request a RAT kit, contact your duty lawyer supervisor or local Court Manager / PPE contact in the Court Registry.

See this guidance document for when you should request RATs [PDF, 161 KB].

We suggest tests are completed off-site, before you come to work for the day. However, should you need to take a test on-site, biohazard bins will be available for safe disposal.

Find out more about Rapid antigen testing on the Ministry of Health website(external link).

Jury trial bubble guidelines
At the direction of the Chief High Court Judge and the Chief District Court Judge, the jury trial bubble guidelines will be used for the conduct of jury trials in the High Court and District Court.

The guidelines cover all participants in a jury trial. All court participants involved in a jury trial will be required to take RATs every day for the first three days of the trial and every second day thereafter.

More information can be found in the Jury Trial Bubble Guidelines on the Courts of New Zealand website(external link).

The Ministry of Justice through the court registries will provide RATs to all participants to support this process.

The Ministry is operating two primary models of surveillance testing for the jury bubble process:

  1. Medical provider onsite that oversees the RAT process: A medical provider will oversee testing. The participant will be taken into a room and given instruction on how to self-administer this test, on each day testing is required.
  2. Medical provider onsite day one, and self-administered RATs on each subsequent day: On day one of the trial, a medical provider will be there to oversee testing. Then, on subsequent testing days, participants will be provided with RATs to self-test at home before coming to court. Instructions will be provided on what to do if you test positive or negative, and how to self-administer tests.

Note that local variations to the testing process may apply.

What do you need to do?
If you are involved in a jury trial, you will be asked to undertake regular COVID-19 tests. Please arrive at court 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start of the trial to ensure this can be completed before the trial commences. If you have been provided with a RAT kit to test at home, instructions will be provided on what to do if you test positive or negative.

Counsel should communicate with witnesses to ensure they are aware of the requirement to take a test before attending court. 

Witnesses can use the onsite medical provider where this is available.

If an onsite provider is not available on the day the witness is to attend court, counsel should ensure a test provided by the registry is supplied to the witness. This is to enable them to self-test at home before coming to court.  Where this is not appropriate or possible (e.g. witness is hostile) then please let the court know.

Testing is voluntary. If a participant chooses not to test, the trial judge will be informed and will decide if any action should be taken.

Participants within the bubble
Below are the participant groups that make up the jury bubble. Those present in the public gallery are not part of the bubble:

  • Defendants
  • Court staff
  • Judicial officers
  • Counsel
  • Officer in Charge of the case
  • Interpreters
  • Empanelled jurors
  • Media
  • Witnesses
  • Communication Assistants
  • Corrections staff (if they haven’t already undergone their own surveillance testing)

Private bar lawyers and legal aid lawyers
If you are not a rostered duty lawyer or involved in a jury trial bubble or proceeding that requires RAT surveillance testing, you will not be able to access the Ministry’s supply of RATs. You can visit Unite against COVID-19 website(external link) to find information on when, where and how to get a COVID-19 test, including ordering RAT home testing kits.

Legal aid invoices submitted with a missing date range

04/03/2022 - Changes have been made to our processes for recording Legal Aid invoices. Previously, Legal Aid Services would use the provider's invoice date, if no date range for completed activities was indicated on their invoice. However, this process is not compliant with audit requirements. The date range is mandatory for providers to complete as these dates will confirm that work was completed within the appropriate timeframes as required under s98 of the Legal Services Act 2011.

Any invoices that do not have the required dates will be returned to the provider for them to complete and resubmit. The invoice forms have allocated space for activity dates to be documented.

We thank you for your assistance.

Opportunity to provide feedback on the Ministry’s Care of Children resources

03/03/2022 - The Ministry of Justice is working to improve the resources and information we provide for Care of Children matters (i.e. our website, pamphlets, posters, videos etc). Our aim is to make it easier for children, parents and whānau to navigate Care of Children matters, both in and out of court.

We would like to provide you with an opportunity to tell us what you think of our current Care of Children resources. This feedback will serve as a pulse check for how the Ministry is currently doing in providing essential information to people going through Care of Children matters.

We have created a survey designed for Family Lawyers, Lawyers for Child, Community Law Centre lawyers, Family Dispute Resolution providers and Parenting Through Separation providers. We would like to understand your views of the existing resources and your feedback will inform their refresh.

Please click here to complete this short survey.(external link)(external link)(external link)

 The survey will be open until midnight, Friday 18 March and will take no more than 10 minutes to complete. All survey responses are collected and held anonymously.

If you have any questions about the survey, or the project to improve the resources for Care of Children matters, send them to RICCProject@Justice.govt.nz. We would be happy to provide more information about the project or take any other feedback you might have.

Notification of unavailability

24/02/22- We appreciate that due to COVID-19 there are a number of reasons why you may be unable to accept assignments. If you are unavailable, please remember to notify us by emailing legalaidprovider@justice.govt.nz. This will allow us to ensure you are not disturbed unnecessarily while you are unavailable and means we can assign cases as quickly as possible to available providers. 

Thank you for your assistance.

Implementing the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals

28/01/2022 - Please find below a letter from Carl Crafar, Chief Operating Officer, which outlines information on the implementation of the COVID-19 Protection Framework in the courts and tribunals, and what the framework means for lawyers and their client. It covers information for lawyers on the following:

  • Entry requirements for courts and tribunal buildings
  • Testing
  • Jury trials
  • A ‘Staggered appearances’ scheduling approach in the District Court
  • Remote appearances
  • Remote filing
  • Other health and safety measures in the courts and tribunals

You can view this letter here [PDF, 1.5 MB].

A fact sheet for jurors about the health and safety measures that will be in place referenced in this letter can be found on the page Jury Service

 

We encourage all legal aid lawyers to read through the information outlined in both of these documents.

We thank you for your assistance and cooperation during this time.

Survey for PDLA lawyers to provide feedback on nationwide holiday period roster

27/01/2022 - The Ministry of Justice implemented a nationwide roster for the PDLA service between 17 December 2021 to 10 January 2022. The purpose of this was to ensure there was timely access to justice throughout the holiday period.

During this period, PDLA lawyers were rostered on to six-hour shifts on one nationwide roster. During rostered shifts lawyers answered PDLA calls from all over Aotearoa and were paid a flat hourly rate to deliver the service.

The Ministry is currently running a survey to get feedback from PDLA lawyers on how they felt the roster worked. A link to the survey can be found below:

consultations.justice.govt.nz/osd/95cafb9c(external link)(external link)(external link)

If you are a PDLA lawyer who participated in the nationwide holiday roster for the service, we would appreciate your feedback. The survey closes at 11:59 pm on 13 February 2022.

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update (24/01/2022)

24/01/2022 - As you will be aware all regions of Aotearoa/New Zealand will move to the Red traffic light at 11:59pm on Sunday 23 January 2022. The policy as advised in the item of 2 December 2021 will now come into force.

As a reminder, for all regions at Red the following policies will apply:

  • Legal Aid will accept any applications that haven’t been signed by your client. Please sign any forms on their behalf and state the reason for not being able to obtain the signature and note this when submitting the form.
  • Providers who are working from home may claim expenses for travel between home and the Court, a place of detention or a Parole Board hearing venue where:
    • the distance is greater than 50 kilometres, or
    • the return travel time is greater than one hour.
  • This policy will only be available for one claim per day where an in-person appearance is required and will also apply to Duty Lawyers.
  • Legal Aid will be processing invoices from providers where preparation for a hearing/trial was undertaken and the event was not able to go ahead due to the changes in COVID-19 Alert Levels. These invoices can be submitted as normal and will be paid if appropriate.

Additional Fees due to COVID-19 Activities:

  • There may be additional services required because of the COVID-19 rules. For example, in family cases we understand you may have assisted with negotiation of care arrangements. In criminal cases, adjournments may have required additional communications with your client, the court and other agencies. This fee is repeatable and may be claimed more than once during the time the region remains at Red.
  • Where additional services have been provided to, or on behalf of your client, because of the lockdown we will approve up to 2 hours at your legal aid rate for the case without needing an amendment to grant.

Your invoice should briefly describe the additional services and reference the COVID-19 traffic light system. If claiming the fee more than once on the same grant, please briefly describe reasons the fee is required a further time/s.

Duty lawyer Payments:

  • When a duty lawyer is rostered to be available for the duty lawyer service, he or she may claim a minimum 2 hours, or the actual hours attended, if that is more than 2 hours.

We also understand that due to some hearings taken place via AVL, duty lawyers may be required to print disclosure or opposed bail paperwork. During this period, we will pay duty lawyers disbursements for printing at the standard rate of $0.10 per page.

Thank you again for your continued cooperation. 

Phone scam targeting lawyers

21/1/2022 – The Ministry has been made aware of a scam involving a caller claiming to be from the Ministry of Justice. The caller is contacting lawyers and is seeking payment over the phone for arrears on invoices. Legal aid staff will never seek payment over the phone for invoices. Should you receive one of these calls, do not provide any financial details to the caller and contact Legal Aid Services. 

Wellington Legal Aid office closed Monday 24 January 2022

21/1/2022 - The Wellington Legal Aid office will be closed on Monday 24 January 2022, for Wellington Anniversary day.

Please send all applications serviced by the Wellington region on this date to WGNCriminallegalaid@justice.govt.nz as usual. Please email all applications as the fax machine will not be accessible during this time.

The Auckland Legal Aid office will process urgent criminal applications for all areas of the country received on this date.

The Contact Centre will remain open from 8am – 5pm. If you have an urgent Legal Aid query on 24 January, you can call 0800 2 LEGAL AID (0800 253 425).

COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light system – Update (14/4/2022)

 

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