Test case funding
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) supports test case matters through funding and through research support, coordination of partnerships, and staff lawyer support or mentoring for legal aid clients.
Which test cases does LAO fund?
LAO will consider funding test case matters that:
- Provide access to justice in LAO’s core areas of service: criminal law, family law, mental health law, clinic law, refugee and immigration law
- Further an issue beyond the interests of the individual client
- Address a serious issue that fundamentally impacts LAO clients and would be unlikely to come before the courts but for the involvement of LAO
Test case funding is limited to financially and legally eligible individual litigants only. In reviewing applications, LAO considers the following criteria:
Will the case:
- Support LAO’s core areas of service: criminal law, family law, mental health law, clinic law, refugee and immigration law
- Align with LAO’s mandate and strategic priorities
- Demonstrably further an issue beyond the interests of the individual client
- Be of high quality: the facts of the case are clear, the proposed legal argument is fully developed, and the estimated budget is reasonable for the type of proceeding
- Be likely to succeed
- Be the most effective and efficient use of resources and public funding in bringing the issue before the court
LAO considers these factors that relate to the significance of a case:
- it raises a novel issue not previously litigated
- broad impact: the outcome can affect a large number of low‑income people
- serious importance to the advancement of the law
- capacity to improve access to justice in LAO’s core areas of service
Merit and quality
Applications for funding need to be of high quality and likely to succeed before the court. LAO will consider:
- The facts of the case
- The timing of the case
- The characteristics of the client: is there a client who is better placed to bring these issues forward?
- The skill, experience and resources of the lawyer representing the client
Cost‑effectiveness and responsible use of public funding
Services supported by LAO’s test case program must be cost‑effective, and must demonstrate responsible, accountable use of public funding. LAO considers the following questions:
- What is the estimated cost of the case, including research, preparation, drafting of legal documents and disbursements?
- Will this case resolve a number of existing or potential matters that raise the same issues, demonstrably reducing duplicative or unnecessarily costly litigation that is funded by LAO?
- Has litigation related to a similar issue previously been funded by LAO? What was the result?
- Is this issue otherwise unlikely to come before the courts?
- Does this application represent the most practical, realistic and cost‑effective way to bring this issue forward?
- What pro bono contributions have been secured? Has counsel explored partnering, mentoring or resource‑sharing as potential conditions for provision of test case program funding for this matter, as a way of reducing costs? Are there other sources of funding or support which can be secured from other organizations?
Private bar lawyers eligible for admission to LAO’s roster and and legal clinics can apply for test case funding on behalf of an eligible individual or a group of individuals. The committee will consider applications in the areas of criminal law, family law, mental health law, clinic law, and refugee and immigration law that fit the criteria above.
To receive such support, please make an application to LAO’s test case program. The test case committee meets monthly to assess each application.
Test case committee meetings
Meeting dates scheduled for 2024
For further information
Special Advisor, Policy
Legal Aid Ontario