Court practice challenge to United Nations

The practice of denying plaintiffs court access in New Zealand based upon (lack of) property saw a formal complaint made to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva three weeks ago.

The ‘security for costs’ regime in New Zealand courts requires poor plaintiffs pay into court the expected legal costs of the defendants before a hearing will be allowed.

Rich plaintiffs do not pay security. The court rules state security must be paid only if the plaintiff cannot afford their adversary’s legal costs or if they reside out of the country.  In short, security orders are expressly made on the ground the plaintiff is unable to comply with them and therefore accepts no hearing is a direct casualty of having limited financial resourses.

Denying elementary court access by requiring poor people effectively pay ‘insurance’ of tens of thousands of dollars they knowingly cannot afford is virtually unique to New Zealand courts.

The U.N. challenge states the practice is discriminatory on the basis of property as defined under Article 2 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as subverts equality before the Courts required by Article 14. 

Harvard-educated Queen Street lawyer Gregory Thwaite, who is also licensed to practice in the U.S.A. and Germany, is fronting the challenge.

“Tyrany prevails where public calls for State protection exceed those for personal liberties.”