In New Zealand, a successful litigant in person is entitled to recover disbursements but not costs. This rule can be traced back many centuries to passages in Sir Edward Coke’s The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England (E and R Brooke, London, 1797). At page 288 he said:
Here is expresse mention made but of the costs of his writ, but it
extendeth to all the legall cost of the suit, but not to the costs and
expences of his travell and losse of time, and therefore costages
commeth of the verb conster, and that againe of the verb constare, for
these costages must constare to the court to be legall costs and
In Lincoln v Police Mr Lincoln, self-represented computer engineer who won the case, claimed 104 hours of his time spent on legal research and court proceedings at his usual rate $90 per hour.
The court held:
There is no rule permitting costs to be claimed by a lay litigant for
his or her work in preparing for and presenting their case. This is
consistent with the long-standing practice not to award costs to a
litigant in person... ...because it is a rule of practice rather than
a rule of law not to award costs to a litigant in person, there may be
exceptions. Matters of general public importance where there is no
self-interest were suggested as possible exceptions.
That particular case lacked general public importance, so no exception was applied. But:
I acknowledge the assistance that Mr Lincoln provided to the court. Mr
Lincoln demonstrated considerable knowledge of firearms and he
provided to the Court very useful research about firearms and the
meaning of “military pattern” in particular. I consider that he can be
treated as an expert in this respect. Expenses paid to experts can be
recovered as a disbursement ... it might be an appropriate exercise of
the general discretion to award costs on this basis ... I would not envisage that the amount recoverable would be
the full 104 hours Mr Lincoln has incurred because a good deal of that
is likely to relate to legal research and preparation.
So, self-litigant who also acts as an expert can recover costs for the corresponding portion of his time.