Chapter 14

Tribunals, Courts and Lawyers

law-justice.jpg

In recent years it has become somewhat easier for ordinary citizens to legally challenge government decisions and to challenge activities that harm the environment.

Taking legal action can be an intimidating experience, but need not be so. This chapter outlines how the legal system works, plus important information about:

  • court procedures
  • costs that may be incurred
  • when and how to get legal assistance

:!: What follows is a guide only and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice.

The court system

Environmental disputes in Tasmania are heard in a number of tribunals and courts, depending on the issues and laws involved.

The Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal

rmpat.jpg By far the most significant institution for environmental matters is the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (the Tribunal). This is a one-stop-shop for appeals and civil enforcement actions in planning and environmental disputes.

There is considerable scope for ordinary citizens to initiate legal action in the Tribunal – almost all land use disputes, with the exception of forestry and mining, are heard by the Tribunal, at least in the first instance.

☛ see below for detailed information about the Tribunal’s functions and processes.

The Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court comprises a number of divisions in which prosecutions take place. If you commit an offence under environmental laws you may be prosecuted in this court or in the Supreme Court, generally depending on the nature of the offence and the penalty that can be imposed.

Environmental prosecutions are normally initiated by government agencies, including local councils. Prosecutions relating to trespass or property damage arising from protest actions are generally initiated by the Tasmania Police.

The Supreme Court
  • The Supreme Court of Tasmania hears appeals from the Tribunal and other courts.
  • If you take legal action based on common law, this may be started in the Supreme Court (although, if all parties consent, some actions may be started in the Magistrates Court.)

Cases before the Supreme Court are heard at first instance by a single judge. His/her decision may be appealed on questions of law to the Full Court of the Supreme Court, which comprises a panel of three judges (not including the judge who made the decision you are appealing against.

⇔ Information about the Magistrates Court and the Supreme Court is available HERE.

Other tribunals and review bodies

• The Mining TribunalHears certain matters relating to mining and quarrying activities.☛ Go to Chapter 11
• The Forest Practices Tribunal Hears matters relating to forestry activities. Appeals can only be commenced by certain prescribed parties.☛ Go to Chapter 8
• The Tasmanian Planning Commission Reviews decisions in relation to amendments to Planning Schemes, Water Management Plans, State Policies and Projects of State Significance ☛ Go to Chapters 4 and 5
• The OmbudsmanCan review administrative decisions of government agencies, including decisions about Right to Information applications.☛ Go to Chapter 13
The national court system
  • The Federal Court of Australia hears cases involving Commonwealth laws. It also hears appeals from Commonwealth tribunals such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
  • The High Court of Australia sits at the top of the Australian court hierarchy. Appeals from the Supreme Court and from the Federal Court may be taken to the High Court. You need permission (known as “leave”) from the High Court to appeal - it can refuse to hear appeals not considered significant enough to justify its involvement.

About the Tribunal

going_it_alone2.jpg :!: Please note, this chapter only provides general information about the conduct of appeals before the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal. More detailed guidance on Tribunal processes is available in:

  • the EDO Tasmania publication “GOING IT ALONE: A Guide for Unrepresented Litigants in the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal” (Ph: 03 6223 2770 to order)

What is the role of the Tribunal?

The Tribunal is a critical component of Tasmania’s Resource Management and Planning System described in Chapters 3, 4, 5 & 6.

The Tribunal’s role is not to prosecute and punish offenders with fines and gaol sentences as is done in the courts. The Tribunal’s primary functions are to:

  • assess appeals from citizens (and affected companies / developers) and uphold, overturn or amend decisions made by planning authorities and other agencies;
  • conduct mediation between disputing parties to attempt to reach an acceptable resolution;
  • assess civil enforcement applications and determine whether Tasmania’s planning and pollution laws are being complied with and, if not, what orders should be made to address any harm that has been caused.

:!: The Tribunal does not initiate investigations or cases of its own, it relies on others to bring issues before it for assessment.

Appeals to the Tribunal can be initiated under a range of Acts (☛ Go to Chapter 4). These Acts prescribe what decisions can be appealed in the Tribunal, who may appeal and what orders the Tribunal can make.

How the Tribunal works

The Tribunal operates in accordance with the Resource Management Planning and Appeal Tribunal Act 1993.

In general:
  • The Tribunal is more 'user friendly' and less formal than a court.
  • Hearings are intended to be conducted with as little formality and technicality and as simply as a “proper consideration of the matters before the Tribunal permits”.
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence and may inform itself on any matter and in any way it considers appropriate.
  • It must, however, observe the rules of natural justice. This does not mean that you have to agree that the outcome is “just”, it means that the Tribunal must ensure that every party to an appeal is given a reasonable opportunity to present their case, to inspect any documents on which the Tribunal proposes to rely and to make submissions in relation to those documents (Section 19).
  • It conducts its hearings in public (unless particular evidence needs to be given in private to protect confidentiality).

Who can make an appeal?

Because one objective of Tasmania’s Resource Management and Planning System (☛ see Chapter 4) is to encourage public involvement in resource management decision, a citizen’s right to make appeals in the Tribunal is fairly open. However, there are some specific limitations as to who can institute appeals to the Tribunal.

“Standing” refers to your right to be heard in legal proceedings. Who has standing in relation to an appeal depends on the nature of the appeal, the relevant legislation and the circumstances of the particular case.

In the case of planning appeals, you only have standing to lodge an appeal if you made a representation to the local council. (or you are the developer who is unhappy with the decision made by Council). (☛ Go to Chapter 5 for information about this process).

If someone else has lodged an appeal, and your interests are affected by a decision, you may apply to the Tribunal to be made a party to that appeal. The Tribunal’s power to make a person a party to an appeal depends on the nature of the appeal. For planning appeals, the Tribunal will not allow you to join the appeal unless:

  • you made a representation, or
  • you have a “proper interest” (see below) and a good reason for not making a representation.

Parties who join an appeal may be restricted to arguing only those points raised by the person who originally appealed. For these reasons, you are in a better position if you institute your own appeal than if you rely on trying to join someone else’s appeal.

What is ‘Proper Interest’?

Traditionally, to initiate action in environmental law cases based on common law, courts required you to demonstrate that you had an interest in the subject matter of the action which is greater than that of an ordinary member of the public – a “proper interest”.

In recent years, the general trend in environmental law around Australia has been to relax restrictions on standing. This has allowed wider scope for members of the public to take legal action for the benefit of the environment.

Though “proper interest” is not defined in LUPAA or EMPCA, some recent cases suggest:
  • You may ‘have a proper interest if you have an ‘interest in or connection with’ the land or the issue at stake and that ‘interest or connection’ is greater than that of the bulk of the population. For example, if you live nearby or take water downstream from the development, you would have a specific interest and be affected by the development more than the general public
  • A conservation group that is active in the subject area and has been involved with the specific issue appealed against may have a ‘proper interest’.
  • Merely wanting to uphold the planning scheme or make sure that environmental laws are complied with is not enough to demonstrate a ‘proper interest’ on its own – you need to show some personal connection to the development / activity / site in question.
In practical terms, you may be able to show a 'proper interest' in an appeal if, for example:
  • you live or own property in the vicinity of the subject land;
  • you have obtained an ‘interest in or connection with the land' through regular visits to or use of the land (for example, if you walk on the beach each day, you may have a proper interest in a development that will restrict access to the beach);
  • your community group runs a playgroup in a hall that will be demolished as part of the proposed development;
  • a proposed development will significantly increase traffic in your area.

Standing can be a complicated issue. If you have concerns, you should contact the Environmental Defenders Office for advice about whether you can demonstrate a sufficient interest in the appeal.

:!: For appeals against decisions to grant a mining lease or exploration licence, only those people who have a proprietary or financial interest in the land can object (☛ See Chapter 11 for more information about objections under the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995).

When can I make an appeal?

For most resource management appeals, including appeals against a planning decision (☛ see Chapter 5), you must lodge a Notice of Appeal within 14 days from the date of the letter notifying you of the decision (regardless of when you actually receive the letter).

:!: You can request an extension in some circumstances, however it is better to lodge your appeal as promptly as possible.

If you are seeking urgent enforcement orders against a pollution incident or similar (under EMPCA) or a breach of a planning permit or planning scheme (under LUPAA), then you should apply to the Tribunal immediately and can ask for an early hearing.

:!: If urgent orders are made, stopping an activity until the hearing, you may be required to provide an undertaking to pay any loss or damage suffered by the respondent in the event that the case is eventually decided in their favour.

For Civil Enforcement actions, you will need to commence proceedings within 2 years of a breach under LUPAA or within 3 years of a breach under EMPCA.

⇔ Click HERE for more information about civil enforcement orders, including interim orders.

Costs

Before lodging your appeal, you need to consider whether you have good grounds for an appeal. If the Tribunal finds your appeal to be frivolous or vexatious, it must dismiss the appeal and direct you to pay the costs of the appeal (including costs incurred by other parties).

The Tribunal would be less likely to find your appeal to be frivolous or vexatious if you have appealed for legitimate reasons and if you avoid raising unreasonable arguments that are without substance or are totally lacking in merit.

⇔ For more guidance on what are reasonable grounds of appeal, see the Tribunal’s Practice Directions.

Planning Aid can provide free advice about the planning merits of your case. The Environmental Defenders Office can also provide advice about the legal strength of your proposed grounds of appeal.

How do I lodge an appeal?

You will need to complete a Notice of Appeal form and lodge it with the filing fee before the appeal period expires (this period may be extended in some circumstances).

:!: Your Notice of Appeal should clearly state the decision that you are appealing against (the relevant details will be set out in the letter you receive from the Council) and the reasons that you think the decision was wrong (your “grounds of appeal”).

What happens then?

After you lodge a Notice of Appeal, a notice will be published in the public notices section of your local newspaper (generally on the following Saturday). The notice will give a date for a directions hearing that you will need to attend to discuss your appeal.

Who are the ‘parties to an appeal’?

In normal circumstances, the parties to an appeal will be:

  • the person who has instituted the appeal
  • the person who made the decision that is being appealed against (often a local council)
  • the person whose initial action gave rise to the decision appealed against (eg. a developer)

If the appeal relates to a refusal or conditions resulting from a water corporation’s submissions (☛ see Chapter 5), the corporation is also taken to be a party to the appeal. Water corporations also have a right of appeal in relation to any planning applications which have been referred to the corporation for comment. If the appeal relates to a refusal or conditions required by the EPA, the EPA is not automatically made a party to the appeal but may apply to join the appeal.

Any other person whose interests are affected by the decision can also apply to join the appeal. For planning appeals, the Tribunal will not allow a party to join the appeal unless the person made a representation, or has a proper interest and a good reason for not making a representation.

If you start Civil Enforcement proceedings under LUPAA, the local council will automatically be made a party. The Tasmanian Planning Commission may also apply to be made a party.

☛ Go to Chapter 4 for more information about Civil Enforcement.

Do I need a lawyer?

The Tribunal was designed to enable untrained citizens to represent themselves in planning and environment matters.

You are not required to have a lawyer. You can represent yourself, or someone can present your case for you. However, if you have no experience, it is advisable to at least obtain initial professional advice prior to becoming involved in Tribunal proceedings. You can be assisted or represented by any person, including a lawyer, a planner, an engineer or a friend who has experience with Tribunal matters. In some circumstances, it can be very advantageous to have a professional represent you. The Tribunal places considerable emphasis on the evidence of expert witnesses. Therefore, if a developer has engaged experienced professionals to present his case, you may be disadvantaged if you do not have expert assistance to present your side of the argument.

When deciding whether you need a representative, consider whether you are able to prepare and present your case from beginning to end. If there are any areas where you are unsure or need clarification, it is sensible to seek advice and assistance.

Even if you do represent yourself in the Tribunal, it is wise to seek advice at the outset to draw up your grounds of appeal, gather evidence from expert witnesses and generally prepare for the hearing.

The Tribunal has a register of professionals (including planners and lawyers) who are prepared to provide free initial advice. This is generally a 15 minute phone call. After that you will need to discuss engaging the professional on a fee-for-service basis. Contact the Tribunal for information about this service.

You can also contact the Environmental Defenders Office for advice.

Planning Aid also offers a free planning advice service through the Hobart Community Legal Service.

:!: Professionals have different skills and responsibilities. They will provide a professional opinion, and this may not coincide with your own view. It may also be difficult for them to provide an opinion without properly considering the material. For this reason, you may need to pay for an initial assessment simply to find out if your case is worth pursuing.

If you engage a professional to help your appeal, you should ask them to give you a full explanation at the outset of all the likely costs that may arise from the Tribunal proceedings.

Getting legal advice

Need to get advice quickly

It’s best to get legal advice as soon as an issue arises because delay can adversely affect court cases. Once a decision has been made, there are strict deadlines for making appeals. Sometimes a delay can mean losing your case — even if your legal claim is correct. Delays can also be expensive.

If you choose to represent yourself in any proceedings, lawyers can still be helpful in giving advice. You can usually get free preliminary legal advice from legal centres, such as the Environmental Defenders Office, Community Legal Centres, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania:

  • The Environmental Defenders Office is a specialist legal advisory service dealing with environmental issues. It offers free advice and, in some instances, can assist in court proceedings.
  • Community Legal Centres provide general legal advice to the community and have a range of publications to assist those who need to represent themselves.
  • The Aboriginal Legal Service provides legal assistance to Tasmanian Aborigines in relation to all legal issues.
  • Legal Aid cannot usually assist you with civil environmental cases in court, but it will usually provide initial legal advice. Legal Aid can provide advice in relation to criminal charges arising from protest action.

Each of these agencies is aware of the services offered by the others, and can readily refer people to the right place when contacted. The Law Society of Tasmania has also recently established a Pro Bono Clearing House, where people can apply for free legal advice and representation. Details regarding this service are available from the Law Society.

Contacts for each of these agencies are provided at the end of this Chapter.

Choosing a lawyer

If you can, it’s best to get advice from a lawyer with special knowledge of environmental law and experience in bringing cases before the Tribunal and other courts. He or she may be able to identify quickly whether a potential development appeal has good prospects of success. Lawyers inexperienced in environmental law may have to refer the matter to other lawyers.

To find specialist lawyers in the environmental field, it may also be worthwhile to contact groups who have been involved in litigation and get their recommendations.

Can I apply for Legal Aid?

The Legal Aid Commission has limited resources and can no longer provide legal assistance for civil cases, which includes most environmental law matters. The Environmental Defenders Office is therefore the best first point of contact for such matters.

However, Legal Aid may provide legal assistance to people who have been charged with criminal offences.

What happens in the Tribunal?

The Tribunal generally conducts an appeal in five steps:

  1. Directions Hearing
  2. Compulsory mediation conference
  3. Full Hearing (if necessary)
  4. Final decision, including any orders
  5. Orders in relation to costs (in some cases)
1. The Directions Hearing

The Directions Hearing is a preliminary meeting of the parties, generally before the Registrar of the Tribunal. It is usually held within two weeks of the appeal being lodged – the date of the directions hearing will appear in the public notice in the newspaper regarding the appeal.

In the directions hearing, the Registrar will consider applications from any other parties who want to join the appeal.

Parties to the appeal may also request documents from each other to assist in structuring their arguments. The Tribunal can make orders for parties to provide relevant documents to all the other parties.

Another purpose of this directions hearing is to clarify the issues in the appeal and to see if some or all of the issues can be resolved by mediation or whether it will go to a full hearing. The Tribunal now generally requires that parties attend mediation before setting a hearing date.

Finally, at the directions hearing the Tribunal will set out a timetable for the appeal, including dates for mediation, exchanging evidence and a full hearing (if necessary).

All parties must comply with the directions of the Tribunal made at this hearing.

2. The Mediation Conference

This is a conference with the Registrar. It is Tribunal practice to have a mandatory initial mediation - a person who does not attend the mediation may be excluded from the appeal, or their application will be dismissed. If you want to be represented by a lawyer at the mediation conference, you must give the other parties at least 48 hours' notice.

The purpose of a mediation is to allow all the parties to try to find a mutually acceptable solution to an appeal. If all parties reach agreement at the mediation, the Tribunal may, without holding a hearing, make the orders agreed to by the parties.

  • The terms of the agreement are put in writing and signed by all parties and then given to the Tribunal.
  • If the Tribunal is satisfied that a decision in those terms would be within its powers and appropriate, it can consent to the agreement and give orders that it be carried out.

Even if the parties do not resolve all the issues, mediation can be a useful way to reduce the number of issues that will be considered at a full hearing.

:!: Mediations are confidential and evidence of anything that happens at a conference is inadmissible at the full hearing.

:!: If you are acting on behalf of an organisation or a group of people in an appeal, you should obtain a signed authority to settle on behalf of your organisation or group at the mediation.

:!: A mediation often includes a visit to the site.

3. The Full Hearing

If mediation is unsuccessful, a full hearing will be required. The parties will generally appear before the Tribunal panel to present their evidence. The panel is normally comprised of the chairperson (who must be a lawyer) and two other members (specialists in a relevant field, such as engineering, town planning or heritage issues).

4. The Tribunal’s decision
  • The Tribunal must hear and determine an appeal within 90 days of it being lodged (unless the parties agree to extend this period).
  • The Tribunal usually reserves its decision at the end of the hearing (that is, they do not make a decision immediately).
  • The Tribunal must notify each party to the appeal of its decision as soon as practicable after making its decision (normally within two weeks). The Tribunal provides written reasons for its decision (including its findings on questions of fact and the evidence or other material on which the findings are based).
  • Once the Tribunal has handed down its decision, it has no further jurisdiction and generally cannot enter into any correspondence with the parties in relation to the decision
  • The decision comes into effect 10 days after it is made (unless the Tribunal has specified another date).
5. Awarding costs

☛ See below for information about costs.

What happens in the Full Hearing?

:!: All witnesses must be present at the hearing so that their evidence can be tested by questions from opposing parties. Without the witness being present, written evidence may be disregarded.

How to prepare your appeal

To prepare for your appeal, you should list all of your grounds of appeal, and work out what evidence you will need to support your arguments for each ground. For example, if you are arguing that a development will have an adverse impact on a threatened bird species, you may need evidence about the number of birds that use the site, breeding habits or migratory patterns of the bird, or expert advice on how fragmentation of habitat will reduce breeding success.

Other evidence in support of your case may include photographs, video/audio tapes, plans or maps, and documents.

You need to put all the evidence you wish to present in support of your case in writing (this is called a “statement of evidence” or “proof of evidence”) and provide it to the other parties before the appeal. As a general rule, evidence which has not been given to all other parties beforehand cannot be presented to the full hearing.

Each witness you are calling to give evidence must prepare a separate statement of evidence and must attend the hearing to be cross-examined on their evidence. Each expert witness should give details of their relevant qualifications in their statement of evidence.

Statements of evidence are generally exchanged 14 days before the hearing date (the Tribunal will make directions about when statements must be exchanged). You must give three copies of all the statements to the Tribunal and one copy to each other party.

The parties are then given 7 days to prepare response statements or supplementary statements. These documents are an opportunity to point out problems / inconsistencies in the other expert reports, or provide more information in response to questions raised by other experts.

:!: It is a good idea to organise your documents and the documents you receive from the other parties in a folder with an index, so that you can find them easily during the hearing.

Sequence of presentation by parties

The Tribunal can make orders about how evidence is presented at a hearing. However, the usual sequence is:

  • First, the developer presents their case
  • Second, the planning authority (council) or decision making authority responds
  • Finally, the person who lodged the appeal and any other parties to the appeal present their arguments
What to do if you are called as a witness
  • You should firstly confirm (and if necessary correct) your statement of evidence. There is no need for the whole statement to be read aloud.
  • If you would like to clarify or further explain your evidence (such as providing original colour photographs to the Tribunal), this is the time to do it.
  • You cannot normally expand or add to your written evidence at this stage.
  • Only present facts and professional opinions in your evidence. Leave your arguments about the merits of the case (that is, whether the Council made the right decision) until later (see “Final submissions”, below).
What to do when you are cross-examining

Following the evidence of each witness, the Chairperson invites the representative of each other party and then Tribunal members to ask questions of that witness.

You should prepare for the cross-examination of each witness before the hearing by carefully going through his/her statement(s) and preparing questions you wish to ask. Take careful note of any relevant comments the witness makes at the hearing before (and after) your cross-examination.

When cross-examining you should only ask questions. You should not make comments or statements – there will be an opportunity to make these comments when summing up your case in the final submissions.

Tips on asking questions
  • Keep the questions short, relevant and concise.
  • Give the witness ample time for a response.
  • If you have photographs, a statement or any other evidence that directly contradicts what the witness has stated or was in his/her proof of evidence, you should present these to the witness. Ask questions about that evidence.

You should not:

  • ask more than one question at a time
  • question a witness on matters which are outside his/her scope of knowledge
  • question a witness on matters which are not relevant to the issues before the Tribunal
  • feel that you have to cross-examine (eg. if other parties have asked the questions that you were going to ask the witness, you can simply tell the Chairperson that you don’t have any further questions to ask)
  • continue with a particular line of questioning if the Tribunal tells you not to ask any more questions about the issue.
Re-examination

Following cross-examination, the party who called the witness is invited by the Chairperson to re-examine the witness.

Re-examination of the witness enables clarification of issues raised during cross-examination - it is not an opportunity to raise new matters. For example, if the other party’s lawyer mentioned that your witness had only conducted studies in Victorian forests, not Tasmanian forests, you could ask your witness to briefly explain why the findings of her studies are applicable in Tasmania.

Final submissions

Final submissions provide an opportunity for the parties to summarise their case to the Tribunal. This is where you can argue that the evidence supports your case, or that the planning scheme should be interpreted a certain way.

The Chairperson will direct the order of final submissions. If there is insufficient time, the Chairperson may request that the final submissions be given in writing.

Inspection of the site

In most cases the Chairperson and Tribunal members inspect the site, generally without the parties.

Can I appeal against a Tribunal decision?

A party may appeal against any decision of the Tribunal to the Supreme Court on a question of law only (not the merits of the case).

Appeals must be lodged within 28 days of the Tribunal decision and must comply with the Rules of the Supreme Court.

During a Tribunal hearing, the Tribunal may, of its own initiative, or upon the request of a party to the appeal, refer a question of law to the Supreme Court for consideration (for example, about the correct interpretation of a provision of the legislation). The hearing is then suspended until the Supreme Court determines the issue.

Important notes:

  • If you are considering a Supreme Court appeal (or if one of the other parties makes such an appeal), you are strongly advised to obtain legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity and, if appropriate, engage a lawyer to represent you.
  • The Tribunal’s decision takes effect, even if an appeal has been lodged in the Supreme Court. You will need to request a ‘stay order’ from the Supreme Court to prevent action on the Tribunal orders until the Supreme Court decision.

Civil Enforcement

Chapters 5 and 6 describe how you can take action against someone who is breaching or likely to breach a planning permit or Planning Scheme or who is causing (or likely to cause) environmental harm, such as pollution. These actions are called Civil Enforcement.

⇔ Click HERE to find out more about the Civil Enforcement Proceedings.

Awarding costs

In the Supreme Court and Magistrates Court, the party that loses the case is generally required to pay all or part of the winner’s costs. This is not necessarily the case with the Tribunal.

How does the Tribunal award costs?

Following the appeal, the Tribunal must make an order in relation to costs.

Normally, at the end of its written decisions, the Tribunal will allow each party a specified period (generally, 14 days) to apply for an order for costs. If you wish to apply for costs you should do so in writing, providing detailed arguments as to what the Tribunal should take into account.

As a general rule, parties to an appeal will bear their own costs. However, if the Tribunal is satisfied that it is fair and reasonable to do so, it may order that one party pay some or all of the costs of another party.

Factors that the Tribunal may take into consideration in deciding whether it is ‘fair and reasonable’ to award costs include:

dollar_sign.jpg

  • the result of the appeal;
  • whether a party has raised frivolous or vexatious issues;
  • whether a party has unreasonably prolonged the appeal or increased the costs of it;
  • the relative merits of the claims made by each of the parties;
  • whether a party has failed to comply with a direction or order of the Tribunal, a planning scheme or any other law;
  • the nature, complexity and outcome of the appeal;
  • the capacity of the parties to meet an order for costs.

:!: Unlike other planning matters, the general rule for civil enforcement action under LUPAA is that the losing party will pay the costs of the winning party.

What about your lawyer’s fees?

Legal fees can be a trap for the unwary, so be on top of it from the outset.

If you engage a lawyer (for advice or to represent you in court) then it is important to establish how you will be charged, and, if possible, how much.

There are three main ways in which a lawyer may charge a client for legal work:

1. Set fee: The lawyer and the client may agree in advance on the amount of professional fees which the lawyer will charge for acting on the client’s behalf for certain agreed work.

2. Item-by-item: charges are based on set values for each item of work done by the lawyer in the handling of your case. For example, a lawyer can charge you for telephone calls, the writing of letters, the reading of letters, and for various items of work relating to the preparation of and appearing in court proceedings.

3. Hourly rate: The fees will be determined by the amount of time spent working on your matter.

:!: Make sure that the method of charging to be adopted is explained to you before legal costs are incurred. This should be done by the lawyer in writing.

If you are uncertain about fees being charged or are unhappy about a legal bill, indicate your concerns to your lawyer and discuss the matter with him/her. If you are still concerned, then seek advice from the Law Society or a Community Legal Service (☛ see contacts at end of chapter). To protect clients, there are rules for legal charging and your legal bill can be challenged in some circumstances.

Further information & useful contacts

Further information about the Tribunal

⇔ Click HERE if you have queries regarding the Tribunal.

From here you can download:

  • the correct form you will need to lodge any appeal
  • the Tribunal's Practice Direction

You can phone the Tribunal office for information about procedural matters. However, the Tribunal cannot give legal advice or advise upon the merits or prospects of success of an appeal.

To obtain a copy of the EDO Tasmania publication, Going it Alone, phone 03 6223 2770.

Further legal information:

  • State Library System (check phone book for locations near you)
  • Parliamentary Library
    Parliament House, Hobart 7000
    Ph: 03 6212 2244
  • Morris Miller Library
    University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay 7005
    Ph: 03 6226 2063
  • University Law Library
    Cnr Grosvenor Crescent & Alexander Street, Sandy Bay 7005
    Ph: 03 6220 2063
  • DPIPWE Library
    134 Macquarie Street, Hobart 7000
    Ph: 03 6233 6418
  • Department of Health and Human Services Library
    Ground floor, 34 Davey Street, Hobart 7000
    Ph: 03 6233 3185

Useful contacts

GOVERNMENT
  • Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania
    Ph: 1300 366 611
    Hobart Office 158 Liverpool Street, Hobart 7000
    Ph: 03 6236 3800

    Launceston Office 64 Cameron Street, Launceston 7250
    Ph: 03 6336 2050

    Devonport Office 8 Griffith Street, Devonport 7310
    Ph: 03 6421 7870

    Burnie Office 50 Alexander Street Burnie 7320
    Ph: 03 6434 6444
NON GOVERNMENT
  • Hobart Community Legal Service
    Hobart Office 166 Macquarie Street, Hobart 7000
    Ph: 03 6223 2500 | Fax: (03) 6223 2510

    Bridgewater Office Covehill Shopping Centre, Bridgewater, 7030
    Ph: 03 6263 4755 | Fax: 03 6263 3952

    Sorell Office 7 Station Lane, Sorell 7172
    Ph: 03 6265 1911 | Fax: 03 6265 1933

Or contact Legal Aid on 1300 366 611.


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