A Human Right to Legal Aid

Macquarie Law Working Paper No. 2007-14

12 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2007 Last revised: 19 Sep 2017

See all articles by Simon Rice

Simon Rice

Professor of Law, The University of Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia – Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group

Date Written: February 4, 2009

Abstract

If legal aid means nothing more than legal representation in court, then to that extent there is a right to legal aid, although of limited availability. It is a right that has been found to be implicit, in various legal systems and in human rights instruments. But a right to legal aid could mean so much more than a limited right to legal representation. I argue for legal aid in its broadest sense as a fundamental human right, guaranteeing public access not only to legal institutions and legal representation, but as well to legal information, legal advice, and legal education and knowledge. The key to establishing a right to a broader idea of legal aid lies in understanding the role of the state from a human rights perspective rather than a welfarist one. After reviewing cases and human rights treaties that describe a right to legal representation, I conclude that even that right is available only in limited circumstances. I then outline a new argument for a fundamental human right not only to legal representation, but to 'legal aid' more broadly understood.

Keywords: Legal aid, human rights, access to justice, right to representation

Suggested Citation

Rice, Simon, A Human Right to Legal Aid (February 4, 2009). Macquarie Law Working Paper No. 2007-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1061541 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1061541

Simon Rice (Contact Author)

Professor of Law, The University of Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia – Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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