Myth 6: A Human Rights Act will be a lawyers' feast

The Myth: The introduction of a Human Rights Act would lead to excessive litigation, which would swamp the courts. This increase in litigation would be a "lawyers' feast" which would generate millions of dollars in legal fees every year and encourage ambulance-chasing lawyers to "prey" on vulnerable groups by enticing them to launch litigation.

The Reality: Although human rights-related litigation is common in the United States, that litigation is part of a broader litigation culture fuelled by large payouts and the fact that losers rarely pay costs.  Fears of excessive litigation are not supported by evidence from other jurisdictions with legislation similar to the proposed Human Rights Act.  For example, in the first four years of the ACT's Human Rights Act, human rights issues were raised in only 66 reported cases, mostly in minor or incidental arguments.  A 2006 review of the UK Human Rights Act found that only 2% of appellate cases concerned major human rights issues.  An earlier study in Scotland found that human rights arguments were raised in 0.25% of criminal cases, and a tiny component of its total criminal and civil caseload.  A 2009 review of human rights litigation in the UK by Sweet and Maxwell showed an increase in cases concerning human rights issues after six consecutive years of decline.  Part of that increase was due to cases brought by corporations, which would not have rights under an Australian Human Rights Act.

For a longer discussion of the arguments regarding litigation, see this section of the Castan Centre's submission to the National Human Rights Consultation.