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Judicial review is the process of going to court to seek a review of a decision that a public body has made. You can challenge many different types of decisions through the judicial review process. Essentially, if any government agency or official decision affects you or your business, you can challenge it. It is an important concept to be aware of, so that you understand the options available to your business if an important decision (such as a licence to operate commercially) is made unreasonably. This article explains:

  • how judicial review works; 
  • whether a court can review or reverse a public decision; and 
  • sets out the process for applying for judicial review.

How Does Judicial Review Work?

Judicial review is an important area of the law, giving New Zealanders and businesses the option to review public decisions. In a judicial review proceeding, a judge is asked to review a public or private administrative body’s actions or decisions. This is to see whether they acted within the powers given to them by the law.

For instance, if they did not give your business the full opportunity to make its case with respect to any decision, the court may decide that the public body did not follow the process required of them by law. 

Judicial review can challenge a wide range of public-sector bodies and individual decision-makers, including councils and state schools. It has been used by businesses in various sectors to challenge decisions made about them.

If you are not sure whether a decision is judicially reviewable or not, it is a good idea to get specific legal advice to see what your options are. There is a good chance if a public or official body made the decision, you may have the option of judicial review.

Judicial review is not, however, a particularly efficient or cost-effective way of overturning a decision that is not in your business’ favour. It can involve time-consuming and expensive court processes. Talking to an ombudsman and laying a complaint there can be more effective. Alternatively, so can working directly with the public body.

Can a Court Change or Reverse a Decision?

In a judicial review case, the courts will look at specific aspects of the decision-making process to decide what should be done. Usually, they will not look at whether the decision-maker made the ‘right’ decision but will look instead at how they decided. This often involves process requirements: 

  • was your business able to provide evidence or represent itself in the decision?; and
  • did the decision-maker consider everything relevant that they needed to consider?  

If the court agrees the decision-maker was in error somehow and finds in your favour (or your business’ favour), there are a number of remedies they can consider: 

  • often, they will order the decision-maker to reconsider the issue and make a fresh decision. This may occur after (for instance) considering evidence they may not have in the first instance; 
  • they can cancel or reverse the decision;
  • they can order the agency or official to take a particular action, like making a decision about some other aspect of the case; or
  • the judge can make an order declaring what your legal rights are or what your business’ legal rights are. This is called a ‘declaration’. 

What the court decides to do after finding against the public body depends on the circumstances of the case. 

What is the Process for Applying for Judicial Review?

Only a person or business affected by a decision can apply for a judicial review. You can ask for a review because:

  • of the process used to reach the decision;
  • you think the decision-maker did not act within the law; or 
  • you believe that the decision was unreasonable.

Note that there may be a time limit for applying for a judicial review. This depends on the particular law that gives the public body their decision-making power. It is worth checking online before making an application. 

If you or your business applies for a judicial review proceeding, you are termed the ‘applicant’. The public body whose actions are being reviewed is called the ‘respondent’, as they are responding to your application. 

The documents you will need to file for a claim include a:

Additionally, when you apply for a judicial review, you will need to pay a fee.

Key Takeaways

Judicial review gives you the opportunity to challenge a public body that has made a decision about you or your business. If you feel that they did not make the decision in a fair or reasonable way (for instance, if the decision-maker did not consider your side or give you an opportunity to provide evidence), you can apply for the decision to be reviewed. Courts will look at whether the decision-maker acted fairly and within their powers. Further, they have the power to change or restart the decision process if they agree with your claim. To find out more about judicial review, contact LegalVision’s disputes and litigation lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is judicial review?

It is the process of going to court to seek a review of a decision that has been made by a public body

What does a court look at during a judicial review?

The courts will not look at whether the decision-maker made the ‘right’ decision per se, but will look instead at the way the decision was made and whether the decision-maker fulfilled their obligations under the law. 

Who can apply for judicial review?

The person who is affected by a decision is the only one who can apply for a review. You can ask for a review based on the process used to reach the decision, or alternatively, because you think the decision-maker did not act within the law or the decision was unreasonable.

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