Legal Aid during Retrial 2007 - 2009

During the retrial, Karam's defence team managed to draw over $3 million of legal aid, the largest amount ever for a single trial.  Of this, Karam took his slice as remuneration for his work in assembling the documents for the case.

It is notable that Karam was eligible to receive this money as a legal executive to the tune of up to $95 an hour, but he has no legal training.  Legal Aid representatives simply state that it is more efficient to pay someone with knowledge of the case than to find someone, maybe with the right qualifications, who does not.  However there does not seem to be any consideration made by the Legal Aid people for someone who so clearly has both financial and emotional interests in the case and who is so blatantly prejudiced in their judgment of it.

Joe Karam personally received $365,879, made up of $272,824 in fees and $93,055 in disbursements/expenses.

Information released by Legal Aid Services in relation to the 2009 retrial of David Bain:

During the period up to and including the 2009 retrial Joe Karam claimed some $365,879 in legal aid.  Of this $272,822 was in fees and $93,057 in disbursements (expenses such as accommodation, food and travel).

From 22 May 2007 to 31 January 2008, Karam claimed 749 hours for which he was paid $75 per hour as an "unqualified legal executive" acting under the supervision of Michael Reed.

From 1 February 2008 to 5 March 2009, Karam claimed about 2045 hours at $95 an hour.  This amounts to around an average of 37.5 hours on a weekly basis, allowing for statutory holidays but no other time off, for a 13 month period.

This equates to an annual salary of $173,000 a year, or $3325 a week or $665 a day.  He was classified as a 'legal executive' for this work, so he can be reasonably called a professional legal executive.

The base salary of a member of parliament as of 2011 is $134,800.  Karam's pay was slightly south of the base salary for the deputy speaker of the house of representatives at $174,000.  Karam has no qualifications related to law, legal services, or public service, apart from the experience that he has put in himself with respect to the Bain case.

Karam claimed a further 235 hours for work during the retrial from 6 March 2009 to 5 June 2009.


749 hours @ $75 $56,175
2045.5 hours @ $95 $194,322
235 hours @ $95 $22,325
TOTAL   $272,822





Kent, I've been looking for

Kent, I've been looking for further info re the payment of legal aid. The best I can find is this link, which would give Karam access to $455,737.76, for work subsequent to 1995 Court of Appeal.  You removed the original comment, so I'm posting this info here, sorry.


I'll republish the item with

I'll republish the item with the revised amount.

Thanks for that.

legal aid

This is a hot topic after Balzey's review.I remember the Dompost querying Karam on the amount he was paid,it was around $300000,I think he started at $90 an hour ,then went up to $150. I have heard that he was up to $300 an hour at the end,but can't confirm this.And,so far as I am aware,he does not have to pay a researcher,or anyone else,for that matter,he gets the lot.Furthermore,it is not taxed at source,so I understand,it is left for him to declare it.I bet he has a tax lawyer who will have found ways for him to pay the least tax possible.

The legal aid representative

The legal aid representative said that he started on about $70 an hour and this went up to about $90 an hour but no higher than $100.

A good point made by our recently acquired legal beagle is that Karam was seated at the bar, a place normally reserved for people who have been admitted to the bar.  His proper place would have been in the gallery out of sight of the jury.  Having him at the bar, with his highly prejudicial attitude was quite inappropriate I believe, but how this was all allowed to happen I don't know.  Maybe it was a benefit of being an ex all-black and being 'special'.

I don't believe Karam was seated at the bar

I don't believe Karam was seated at the bar. He was seated behind the defence team - front row was Read QC, Cull QC and the other NZ lawyer whose name escapes me at present. Second row was Matthew Karam and David Bain. Behind them and in the end seat was Joe Karam. My understanding was he was given consent to sit in the Media gallery at the back of the Court room - a special concession - whereas normally he would have been required to sit in the public gallery upstairs.

When the defence were demonstrating the "suicide" theory they asked permission of the Judge to have Karam assist their witness. The Crown did not object so he moved into the "restricted area" at that stage but went straight back to his seat at it's conclusion.


I don't believe Karam was seated at the bar.

Well this adds to a growing list of things that were not right about the second trial.Karam should of been in the public gallery, period!.Furthermore only court attendants should be able assist in Defence or Prosecution demos.I do believe these incidents did have some effect on the Jury in contributing to the effect of a  demeamour of" innocence" by the Defence team.It is outstanding that the Prosecution gave consent for Karam's participation.Court procedure and policy should not allow it,again period!

Hmm I probably read too much

Hmm I probably read too much into what I read in Muddied Waters.  All the same as you say, he should have been in the gallery in a less visible position. His presence in the media gallery, would that make him in the background most of the time while the jury is watching proceedings?

Yes,Karam's presence in the media gallery

Yes, Karam's presence in the media gallery would have made him still visible to the Jury. The reason I brought this matter up was because I believe accuracy is paramount when claiming certain things occured. The Bar is a specific area and from what I observed Karam did not sit there, I was advised he had been given special consent to sit in the media gallery on the same level as the defence team, behind them but not with them! I think it would be good to take this up with the author Kent.

There is a very good thread on freeforums about the jury, the members and their behaviour.

Napelia, Your thoughts are


Your thoughts are greatly appreciated and I have certaintly taken it up with the author.  He is very pleased with the presentation of the book and has supplied me with Chapter 2.

legal aid

Well,I am sure the figures quoted in the DomPost were higher than $100.They asked Karam,and he supplied the figures.But I could go to the library and check,the article was in the paper shortly after the retrial.But Vic's interviewer ,Kerry Williamson ,would probably  know ,or be able to find out.Re Karam at bar,yes there has been a lot of discussion about this,and of course,about him helping with the "headgear".I don't believe he should have been allowed to partake.

Legal aid

Kent,I now find out all the info on legal aid is already linked to this site.I was wrong,Karam has been paid [from 16/7/07 to 30/4/09]$265413 for his time and $66180 for travel,accomodation and living costs.He was paid $75 an hour initially,then $95 since Jan 2008.The amount paid from 1/5/09 to the end of the retrial is not shown.Karam says the cost of his campaign is in the millions.

Final payment

After the retrial there was a Supreme Court hearing. Karam received $6080 in fees. He did not claim for any disbursements. That equates to 64 hours at $95 an hour,and takes the total fees paid to Karam relating to the retrial up to $278902.

Final figure for Karam's legal aid fees relating to retrial.

As above the final figure was $278902.