28 May 2013

Lawyer quits Treaty claims work

10:25 am on 28 May 2013

Another lawyer is giving up on Treaty claims work.

Janet Mason of Pacific Law says it is too difficult to get legal aid.

She says for a year and a half the Ministry of Justice has been only part paying her, or rejecting her invoices, saying she has failed to meet her deadlines.

Ms Mason argues she's done everything by the book, but the process is being bogged down in bureaucracy and the relationship has become petty and personal.

The Wellington lawyer says she can't run a law firm and not get paid or the business would self-destruct. Ms Mason says she will now focus on commercial law.

Her move follows that of Auckland lawyer Joshua Hitchcock, who has now left law, frustrated over the claims process.

He says the Ministry of Justice is taking upwards of a year to pay out on an invoice.

Ministry responds

The Ministry of Justice has responded to the complaints raised by both lawyers.

In Ms Mason's case, it says there are a small number of files outstanding, containing complex matters, which officials hope to resolve soon.

For Mr Hitchcock, the Ministry acknowledges there were some delays last year, as it worked through a historical backlog of Waitangi invoices - an issue that's now been sorted out by getting more staff to process transactions.

A spokesperson adds Mr Hitchcock is very welcome to talk to the Ministry if he's interested in returning to Waitangi Tribunal legal aid work.

The Ministry of Justice says it is now up to date with practically all its Waitangi Tribunal legal aid files.