Public interest litigation is litigation that seeks to establish a new point of law, while also securing a benefit for the individual involved.
Public interest litigation can be a very effective way of using the law to effect change for marginalised and disadvantaged groups. It can range from a high impact test case to a series of administrative cases. Public interest litigation may also be called strategic litigation where it is part of a wider campaign, rather than being conceived as an end in itself.
In Ireland, and other jurisdictions, the climate for litigation is challenging leading a number of barriers that make it difficult for public interest issues to have their day in court. There is need for change to court rules and procedures to facilitate the taking of test cases and class actions, to give standing to NGOs acting on behalf of vulnerable groups, and to develop protective costs orders to reduce the financial risk for those who take legal challenges in the public interest.