Monday, June 25, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
- Does the entry into the Funding Agreement exceed the executive power of the Commonwealth, and in particular does the executive power of the Commonwealth extend to entering into contracts in respect of matters that go beyond the legislative power of the Commonwealth;
- Do the NCSP Guidelines impose a religious test as a qualification for an office under the Commonwealth, and thereby contravene section 116 of the Constitution?
Executive power of the Commonwealth
Scope of the student benefits power – section 51(xxiiiA)
The Great Dissenter
It is difficult to know what the future of the NCSP is as a result of this judgment. There must be some doubt as to whether the Commonwealth could validly legislate to resurrect it. However, even assuming no legislative power to authorise to authorise the entry into the Funding Agreements, other constitutional mechanisms would seem to be available to enable the program to continue (most obviously, the provisions of tied grants under section 96).
More broadly, there is at least a majority of French CJ, Gummow, Bell and Crennan JJ who are of the view that the executive power of the Commonwealth is constrained not only by it's power to legislate but also by the fact of legislation authorising the entry into contracts pursuant to which it seeks to pay moneys in fulfilment of its programs. In a practical sense, this ultimately may not amount to very much, as similar ends will be achieved by legislatively providing the express authority to enter into such contracts, or achieving the same results via tied grants to the States.
However, more significantly the High Court has continued in its preparedness to challenge long-held assumptions about Commonwealth expenditure powers, and it can be expected that before too long the scope of various other powers of the Commonwealth to expend moneys (most notably sections 64 and 96 of the Constitution) will come under renewed challenge.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Those delays aside, I've now had an opportunity to put the app through its paces. As always, I have played with it without doing any official training in order to assess its intuitiveness, and to see the extent to which it does what I want it to do straight out of the box. So to the extent I have described a limited functionality, I accept it may be that I couldn't find it.
I should say up front that I am testing the Red platform in its iPad incarnation. It is available for Windows PCs as well, which I have not tested, for two reasons. Firstly, I have a Mac. And yes, Mac users have once again been left out in the cold. Secondly, if you want this thing on two devices, you'll need to get two licences. I haven't seen any pricing for these products yet, so I don't know whether this is another cynical act of price-gouging on the part of a near-monopolist publisher of NSW's main procedure loose leaf.
The main utility LexisNexis Red is that it makes the hard copy of Ritchie's available in tablet format. To that extent, it serves a very useful function of having the whole of the text available in a convenient, and portable, format. Thankfully, the paragraph numbering corresponds with that in the hard copy, so referencing Ritchie's remains medium neutral.
As occurred with the online version of Ritchie's, however, the translation to electronic format is somewhat lazy. Click in the Table of Contents on Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 and you get a sub-table with two items that read "Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005" and "UNIFORM CIVIL PROCEDURE RULES 2005". The former brings up a numerical table, followed by an alphabetical table, of the parts of the UCPR. The latter brings up the UCPR itself. It thus replicates the same lazy nesting that features in the online version. One wonders why you need either a numeric table of parts or an alphabetical table of parts in an electronic version of the publication. OK...I can think of one reason, but those tables are only useful if they link to something. Which they don't. If you know you want to go to Part 21, or you know you want to go to the part dealing with Discovery, those tables should help you navigate there...but they're not hyperlinked. Which means they are as useful as a supernumerary nipple.
While I have a head of steam up about hyperlinking, let me say a few more things about how ordinary it is.
If you have a bright-blue hyperlink that says 5.12, it helps if when you click on it it takes you to 5.12. It doesn't. It takes you to 5.1 instead. All of the hyperlinks to individual rules, or paragraphs in the commentary, take you to the beginning of the relevant Part or, in some cases, the beginning of the Division within that Part in which the particular rule or paragraph of the commentary appears. It doesn't take you to the rule or paragraph itself.
In some cases, the hyperlinking is not apparent at all...sometimes ordinary black text is in fact hyperlinked (in the Table of Contents for example).
The hyperlinking in the Index is quite ordinary. Looking for "Abridgment of Time" tells you to see "Time", which is hyperlinked. But it hyperlinks to the Ta section of the Index, not the Ti section (although the Ti tab itself if highlighted). And of course when you eventually find the reference to Abridgment of Time, it hyperlinks you to rule 1.12...except it actually takes you to rule 1.11 because that is the first rule in Division 2 of Part 1.
Heaven forbid you should need to read Rule 1.1. In a further lazy transposition into the digital age, Part 1 commences not with Rule 1 but with the Table of Amendments to the whole of the UCPR. Why? Because that's where it appears in the lazy transposition of the hard copy to the online version. Want to see a definition in the Civil Procedure Act? That's in section 3, so you'll have to scroll through the Table of Amendments to that Act first.
There is some hyperlinking between the UCPR and other legislation referred to therein, but it is pretty hit-and-miss. For example, provisions of the Corporations Act are referred to, but click on that bright blue hyperlink and it brings up an error telling you to get in touch with Customer Support. Presumably, this is because Ritchie's itself does not contain the Corporations Act. It does, however, contain relevant parts of the Legal Profession Act relating to costs, but for some reason the parts of the UCPR referring to those costs provisions are not hyperlinked to them.
Sorry to say, Ritchie's does not link to any of the caselaw services, so all those cases that are referred to in the commentary (usually accurately) remain unavailable in any convenient form from within Red itself.
Being a slavish electronic version of the hard copy/online version, the Court Forms are also available. They are available via hyperlink in a Word version of the form, should you so desire. It is not apparent why anyone would so desire, because you can't actually do anything with it: edit, save, email, Tweet, upload to Facebook, Pinterest etc etc.
Navigating is not the easiest thing to do. There is no easy way to keep track of where you've been and where you're going. While you can go back to where you came from, you cannot immediately go forward again. You can go back to your opening home screen where there is a list of recent places, but that seems an overly cumbersome way of navigating.
There is no apparent way of creating a list of favourite places that you frequent often, although you could highlight certain text and use the list of highlights as, in effect, a set of bookmarks. There is the capacity to annotate the text, but its functionality is fairly limited. The note itself does not indicate the text that is being annotated, so that notes to bits of text that are in close proximity, or that overlap, can be impossible to distinguish. Notes cannot be synced between the iPad and (if you've forked out for the additional licence) a PC version of Ritchie's on Red.
Searching can be slow if you're searching for a commonly occurring phrase. There's no indication of how many hits have been found. The only context provided is the name of the Part or Division in which the hit occurs, which more often than not is not very helpful. You canot search a phrase: quotation marks don't work, and the phrase by itself seems to be treated as individual search terms with the AND operator between them. Once you click on one of the results, there is no apparent way to return to the results list, or move to the next hit.
Someone rings you up to ask you about a particular rule? Forget it. You can't search by rule number. The numerical table of parts is not hyperlinked. So the only way is to go back to the table of contents, and browse through the relevant Parts and Divisions until you get there. Thankfully, however, the Table of Contents actually works pretty well, although the inconsistency between the way that upper and lower case is used, and the inconsistency in the way Parts or Divisions are labelled with the range of rules/sections, are bugbears.
I could go on, but I think you get the drift. LexisNexis Red seems to be a souped-up eReader with fairly limited functionality. While it adds the convenience of carrying a 3-volume loose leaf around on your iPad, it adds very little else. I could not find any pricing on the website, so it's impossible to say whether it is value for money. But if I were to answer the question legal publishers are so fond of asking (ie how much would you be prepared to pay on top of your loose leaf subscription for this product) the answer would be: not very much.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
After I wrote my unfavourable review of some of the LexisNexis eBooks, and comparatively favourable review of the Thomson Reuters ProView platform, I was contacted by LexisNexis who asked me to participate in the beta-testing of their newly-developed LegalPad (now Red) platform. Despite some concerns about the breadth of the confidentiality agreement they required, I signed up for the beta-testing only to discover that:
- the desktop version of the platform was not available for Mac (don't be fooled by their reference to "PC or laptop"...what they mean is Windows-based laptop);
- the iPad App had not yet been approved by Apple and was unavailable for testing.