Litigants and Legal Representatives: A Study of Special Leave Applications in the High Court of Australia.

Sydney Law School
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sydney Law Review, 2019, 41 (1), pp. 35 - 71
Issue Date:
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This article presents the findings of the first systematic and comprehensive study to probe a substantial tranche of applications for special leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia. Special leave to appeal is discretionary and a case must satisfy the public interest test in s 35A of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) to be granted leave to appeal. This article presents findings as to the characteristics of the litigants and legal representatives involved in special leave applications. The data reveals high numbers of self-represented applicants and low numbers of legally aided applicants, as well as disproportionate success rates for those litigants who enjoy an advantage because of greater resources and litigation experience. The study also highlights a striking lack of diversity in both applicants and lawyers appearing in special leave applications. These are all matters that are outside the control of the High Court and that have an effect on the nature and flow of the Court’s appellate work. The study demonstrates that a High Court appeal is, in many cases, restricted to well-resourced litigants and that there are significant access to justice issues for self-represented litigants due to the limited availability of legal aid.
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