We believe legal action that supports social justice contributes to a better society
Governments are elected by their constituents, but they don’t always respect their rights. Governments may overreach their powers, or use existing powers in ways they weren’t intended for.
Breast cancer gene patenting: Attempted commercialisation of human genetic material
In an Australian first Yvonne D’Arcy, a Brisbane woman with cancer represented by Maurice Blackburn, won a ‘David and Goliath’ battle against a United States based molecular diagnostic company. Myriad Genetics had attempted to patent the BRCA1 gene which, if present, dramatically increases a woman's chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Myriad Genetics argued it held patents over the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes which can increase breast cancer risk in women if present.
They argued that as they had discovered the gene by isolating it, that this amounted to an invention and they could therefore patent the invention. They also argued that these patents would ensure innovation as they could be commercialised for women’s benefit.
We disagreed and together with Yvonne D’Arcy we took Myriad Genetics all the way to the High Court to fight against the BRCA-1 patent. We won.
We argued that isolated genetic material is not an invention because it is naturally occurring, and therefore couldn’t be patented. Under current law only inventions which are considered a 'manner of manufacture' or 'manner of new manufacture' can be patentable.
Mistreatment of detainees in youth detention
On 25 July 2016, ABC’s Four Corners aired a report entitled ‘Australia’s Shame’ which exposed the mistreatment of detainees in youth detention in the Northern Territory. In response to the Four Corners report and public outrage, the Commonwealth Government announced the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
The applicants claim that mistreatment and other bad conditions detainees suffered came about because of racial discrimination as around 90% of detainees were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and then all detainees were subjected to the bad treatment and conditions. Young people do not need to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to be part of the class action.
The wrongful detention of Dr Mohamed Haneef
Dr Mohamed Haneef was arrested in 2007 and charged with a terrorism-related offence, which resulted in his Australian visa being cancelled. After being held in detention for nearly a month, Dr Haneef was released, the charge was withdrawn and the decision to cancel his visa was subsequently overruled by the Federal Court. In all, the investigation and detention of Dr Haneef cost taxpayers over $7.5 million.
Who advocates for children in the justice system?
On 8 June 2011, Maurice Blackburn together with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre launched a class action in the Supreme Court of New South Wales seeking compensation for children and young people who have been wrongfully arrested and detained by NSW police for breach of bail.
The State of New South Wales has agreed to pay money into a fund to be administered for participating group members. Maurice Blackburn, as lawyers for the plaintiff, will administer a settlement scheme if it is approved by the Court.
Grand Western Lodge class action
Maurice Blackburn acted in a class action in the Federal Court of Australia seeking compensation for people with disabilities who were allegedly assaulted, falsely imprisoned or suffered financial losses while they were residents of Grand Western Lodge.
It was alleged in the claim that Mr Powell physically assaulted residents as well as encouraging a residents' committee to assault residents. It was also alleged that Mr Powell confined residents as punishment and administered non-prescribed quantities of psychotropic medication to sedate some residents. The claim details allegations that Mr Powell frequently assaulted and falsely imprisoned Mr McAlister.
The Grand Western Lodge class action settled on the basis of payment by the Respondents to the Applicant, Mr McAlister, and the 50 class members of a total of $4.05 million.
The Tecoma 8 protest ban
When global fast-food giant McDonalds decided to build a new 24-hour store in Tecoma, a small town in the foothills of the Dandenong ranges in Victoria, the local community organised to protest against it.
Little did they know that McDonalds would attempt an interim injunction in the Supreme Court in an attempt to quell the protests.