Part of the government’s “transforming legal aid” agenda was to “restore public confidence” in the operation of judicial review by ensuring that only meritorious cases were brought. The method chosen to achieve that was to make payment for judicial review work conditional on permission being granted by the court (with limited exceptions, at the discretion of the LAA). Regulations to that effect came into force on 22 April 2014.
Four solicitors firms – Ben Hoare Bell, Deighton Pierce Glynn, Mackintosh Law and Public Law Solicitors – and the housing charity Shelter challenged the regulations. The claimants represent the range of judicial review work, covering between them work across categories such as immigration, housing, community care, public law and actions against the police, and were supported by witness evidence from a number of other organisations.
The High Court gave judgment today in Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v The Lord Chancellor  EWHC 523 (Admin). The grounds of challenge were that a) the Lord Chancellor had no power to make the regulations introducing conditional funding; b) the regulations were inconsistent with the statutory purpose of LASPO; and c) that they would have a chilling effect on access to the courts, because providers would not be able to risk taking on work without payment.
Six weeks after the High Court ruled that it was in scope of LASPO, the LAA has finally issued some guidance for practitioners.
Immigration contract holders can open matter starts for this work – and will be paid for it even if the MoJ appeal is successful. (Edit – it appears from the note on the LAA site that, if the appeal is successful, funding will stop at that point, even if partway through a case, but will not be retrospectively withdrawn).
Following the collapse of the Immigration Advisory Service – the single biggest civil legal aid provider in any category of law – the LSC has revealed how it intends to manage the fall-out and re-allocate cases.
It is asking existing immigration providers in effect to bid for cases, and will allocate them according to bids. Each new case taken on will be a new matter start, and providers can request an increase in their allocation to allow them to take IAS cases. Expressions of interest, on the prescribed form, should be submitted to email@example.com by midday on Monday 18th July, with cases being re-allocated next week. An FAQ is also available here (PDF).
The LSC has not said what it proposes to do if there are more cases than providers remaining in the market are able to take on, but given the size of IAS and its dominance in some geographical areas that must be a real risk. Hopefully there is a contingency plan.