There is a growing academic literature on the use of public interest litigation that has demonstrated how some voluntary sector organisations rely on a variety of strategies to achieve their aims. Much of it tries to provide accounts of why people or groups go to court and why they do not. A common thread in this literature is how the availability of financial resources often determines the fate of public interest litigation. In the context of judicial review in the UK, resources have become an increasingly tricky issue. The relationship between money and access to justice review is a densely complex one, but many now claim that funding a judicial review claim is increasingly difficult. In this paper, I explore whether crowdfunding—using an online platform to raise third-party funding—is a possible answer to the issue of lack of resources in the context of public interest litigation. In other words: can crowdfunding support legal reform through providing resources for public interest litigation? I argue the answer is that crowdfunding can—in certain cases—solve the resource dilemma and be a key part of procuring reform via public interest litigation. However, it is far from a foolproof solution and there are multiple risks inherent in its use. The nature and possible extent of such risks are such that the crowdfunding of public interest litigation should be approached with great caution.
Dr Joe Tomlinson is Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Sheffield and Research Director of The Public Law Project (London). His interests lie in administrative law and justice, and public law more generally. His work in this field has been published in leading journals and funded by a range of organisations, including the ESRC and the Nuffield Foundation.