On ABC’s Law Report this week, staff at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre discuss its new online application process for family violence intervention orders.
The standard application form for an intervention order in the Magistrates’ Court is 12 pages long and requires some legal knowledge to complete correctly. The NJC’s Louise Bassett said, “I’ve got to point out, I’ve got a law degree and I’m in the system, and when I first encountered this I didn’t know what to tick on the front page.”
The new form is interactive, so it reduces confusion by only including questions that are relevant to the applicant. It guides the user through the process, and uses plain English and examples to explain the information that is requested. It also provides security advice and contact information for relevant community organisations.
Magistrate David Fanning says the information generated by the form is more useful in court: “Well, the information that it generates for me when I’m looking at the matter is that it highlights risks and high risk. So therefore, a busy court, as all courts are, having that there straight in front of me makes it readily available. … [I]t’s both a better [time] economy and it also brings to the forefront immediately the level of risk.”
The new form is currently available for residents of the City of Yarra for a six month trial period, after which it is expected to be expanded to other areas.
A new study has identified the most frequently cited precedents in Australian law. Unsurprisingly, “[t]he top ten positions are occupied by High Court decisions.”
The number one decision, “significantly cited by over 1,200 later judgments”, was House v The King, a 1936 decision about when an appeal should be allowed. It established that “a result should be reviewed by an appellate court if a judge acts upon a wrong principle, allows extraneous or irrelevant matters to guide or affect them, mistakes the facts or does not take into account some material consideration”, or “if the original judgement is ‘unreasonable or plainly unjust'”.
The results were determined by the team behind the case citator FirstPoint. A case citator is a tool that tracks the connections between legal precedents, such as when they are applied, distinguished or overturned. This allows lawyers and judges to identify relevant precedents and determine whether they are binding or persuasive.
Public.Resource.Org is a nonprofit organisation that is attempting to digitise and publish copies of all public domain government records in the United States. Its owner, Carl Malamud, believes “the law belongs to the people and in our system of democracy we have the right to read, know, and speak the laws by which we choose to govern ourselves.”
The State of Georgia is suing Malamud for publishing a copy of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), claiming it is a breach of the government’s copyright. Its statement of claim accuses Malamud of a “strategy of terrorism” by publishing copies of the law. Georgia does not publish a copy of the law itself, and instead refers its citizens to for-profit law publisher LexisNexis.
On the government side of the argument, the formatting and annotations of the OCGA may be subject to copyright. However, Malamud argues that because Georgia has designated the annotated version of the law as the official version, they must be in the public domain.
Many of the annotations in the OCGA (such as the history of amendments to a section) are a standard feature of the official versions of Australian laws. The Commonwealth and Victorian governments provide free PDF copies of all laws and regulations, and also allow groups such as AustLII and Jade to republish the documents. Jade adds additional annotations and owns the copyright to those.
In 2013, the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 was amended to extend its protection to sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status. An exemption was granted to all Commonwealth, State and Territory laws for one year, so that they could be reviewed and amended to comply with the new protections. In 2014, the exemption for Commonwealth laws was removed after a review determined they complied. The deadline for State and Territory laws has been extended again until 31 July 2016. When the exemption ends, State and Territory laws that conflict with the new provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act will be invalid to the extent of the inconsistency, due to the operation of section 109 of the Constitution.