From increased budgets for the United Kingdom's justice system to Alec Baldwin's accidental on-set shooting, here are some of the top legal stories from October 2021.
Chancery Lane has Welcomed the 2021 Budget
United Kingdom's law firms have reacted positively to the Chancellor’s budget announced this month. The government has announced its intention to reinvest in the justice system by increasing the budget for the Ministry of Justice by GBP 3.2 billion to GBP 11.5bn in 2024-25. The government has also pledged to tackle the growing court backlogs and aid the recovery of the system following the pandemic. This increase in budget will help to widen the capacity and efficiency of the overall court system in the UK, as stated by the Law Society President Stephanie Boyce.
A further GBP 477 million will be spent to reduce the criminal justice backlog as well as GBP 324 million to address the backlog in the civil, family and tribunal jurisdictions. The money being invested will also be used to increase the numbers of people eligible for means-tested legal aid as thresholds will be widened, meaning that millions more people will be able to access justice in UK courts. Boyce has stated that these announcements would not solve all the issues impacting the justice system but they are a “step in the right direction” and demonstrate that the “UK government has listened to us and has pledged to invest in the sustainability of the civil legal aid market.”
Former Irish President States that Lawyers Must Wake up to Climate ‘Madness’
The former leader of Ireland, Mary Robinson, has attacked lawyers for failing to demonstrate the leadership needed to address the defining global crisis of our time. In a climate conference hosted by the Law Society of Scotland, preceding the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Robinson stated that lawyers have not been adopting the right “mindset” to tackle issues. Currently serving as adjunct Professor for climate justice at Trinity College Dublin, she has pointed out that it is particularly important lawyers that recognise the multitude of ways in which they can be effective against climate change, whether this is through climate litigation, policymaking or advising. She has also stated that lawyers need to make climate issues “personal in their own lives” by speaking out against governments and other corporations that “aren’t doing enough”.
These comments come in tandem with discussions on the establishment of an international energy tribunal to enforce the commitments that come out of COP26 and hold big polluters accountable. On the possibility of this, Robinson commented that though a promising idea in principle, it will be a challenge to establish in the face of the current lack of leadership at the international level and “multilateral solidarity” that is needed to allow for new treaties and new institutions of that kind.
Pro-Bono Week Celebrates its 20th Anniversary
Pro-Bono Week, a 7-day event that supports and promotes the work of lawyers who volunteer free services to individuals and organisations that cannot afford legal advice, has celebrated its 20th anniversary this month. Pro-Bono Week is organised by a committee of representatives from legal organisations, pro-bono charities, law schools and firms across the UK. It works to encourage legal professionals and law students to volunteer their time and offers scope for discussion about challenges and best practises when providing pro-bono services.
This year's pro-bono week was especially focused on the struggles and necessity of pro-bono during the pandemic. Law Society President, Stephanie Boyce, has stated that pro-bono legal advice “can be life-changing for people who would otherwise have to navigate the justice system without expert help”. However she was quick to stress that public funding for the justice system was crucial so that lawyers “aren’t required to work for free".
Jenner and Block have been Hired to Investigate the Alec Baldwin Accidental Shooting
Producers of the film “Rust” have hired American law firm Jenner & Block to head the investigation into the accidental on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Following actor Alec Baldwin’s fatal shooting of Hutchins with a prop gun (that also injured the film's director Joel Souza), the film’s production team has stated they are cooperating with authorities in investigating the incident. Jenner and Block are set to have full discretion over who to interview and will observe interviews between members of crew and the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is reportedly standard practice for the agency to investigate deaths in the workplace. Investigations are expected to be made into safety on set and whether protocol standard was adequate in the film’s production.
South Korean Broadband Firm Sued Netflix over Traffic Surge due to “Squid Game” Streaming
SK Broadband, a South Korean broadband provider, has sued Netflix to cover costs incurred from increased network traffic and maintenance work due to the sudden surge of viewers of the streaming service’s content. The popularity of the Korean hit series “Squid Game” has highlighted Netflix’s place as the country's second-largest data tariffs generator, after YouTube.
Following the release of “Squid Game,” Netflix’s data traffic handled by SK Broadband skyrocketed 24 times to 1.2 trillion bits of data processed per second, the firm has claimed. A court in Seoul has stated that Netflix should “reasonably” give something in return to the broadband firm over network usage. Additionally, South Korean lawmakers have expressed concerns over the fact that content providers like Netflix do not pay for network usage despite the fact they generate substantial amounts of traffic.
Netflix has stated they will review the situation and work with SK Broadband to ensure customers are not impacted. However, last year, Netflix brought forward their own lawsuit over whether it should be obliged to compensate SK Broadband for network usage as the content platform argued that its duty ends “with creating content and leaving it accessible” and SK’s expenses were incurred when fulfilling its obligations to its users. The Seoul Central District Court ruled against Netflix on this case, showcasing the streaming service will likely have little luck with this recent move.