Weekend Wrap: Budget leaves legal aid in funding crisis

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Making news this week, the 2016 Federal Budget has left legal aid in a deeper funding crisis; a national law firm has taken a stand against offices; and the Italian Supreme Court was praised for an inspiring act of morality.

The Law Council of Australia announced it will be launching a national campaign on legal aid funding after the 2016 Federal Budget handed down this week confirmed the government would be standing behind cuts announced in the 2014-15 Budget, as well as further cuts in 2017.

These cuts, according to the Law Council, will strip $12.1 million from community legal centres and $4.5 million from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.

Law Council president Stuart Clark has declared legal aid in a state of crisis.

“The ongoing funding crisis in legal aid means thousands of disadvantaged and middle Australians are having to represent themselves in court, causing untold stress and injustice.  Without legal aid, many Australians ignore their legal problems with devastating consequences,” he said.

Commercial law firm Gilbert + Tobin has taken a stand against individual offices in the workplace, saying they incredibly stifling to collaboration.
The firm, which traded its Park Street office for Barangaroo this week, announced it would be trialling a completely open plan work system with no private offices.

“In a highly flexible and dynamic environment, you need to think about and breakdown as many barriers to communication as you can,” managing partner Danny Gilbert told Australasian Lawyer.

Finally, Italy’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Cassation, has been praised after ruling that theft of essential sustenance out of dire necessity is not a crime.

The ruling came after Roman Ostriakov stole around $6 worth of cheese and a sausage from a supermarket Genoa, Italy, when he couldn’t afford anything to eat back in 2011. He was caught, tried, found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of €100.

Former Washington DC public defender, Alec Karakatsanis, applauded the decision, noting a recent case in the US where the US Supreme Court failed to protect a homeless man who received jail time after stealing vitamins from a grocery store.

“It's incredible to me that American courts think of the crime as the homeless person stealing, not as the fact that we live in a society where there are hundreds of thousands of homeless people,” Karakatsanis said.