Published In

Dalhousie Law Journal

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Subjects

legal ethics, attorney general, rules of professional conduct, confidentiality, privilege, politics

Abstract

The unique role of the attorney general raises several special issues of legal ethics. This paper addresses one previously unaddressed: whether it is appropriate for the attorney general to publicly announce his or her reasons for resigning from Cabinet. Unlike other ministers, the attorney general is almost always a practicing lawyer and thus bound not only by Cabinet solidarity and Cabinet confidentiality, but also by the lawyer’s professional duty of confidentiality and by solicitor-client privilege. The paper begins by canvassing a hierarchy of reasons for a principled resignation and the rare historical examples where these have occurred. It then turns to the roles of the attorney general, analyzing how the legal ethics implications of the primary role — legal advisor to Cabinet — may be affected by two more amorphous roles: legal advisor to the legislature and guardian of the public interest. Finally, it considers the special case of the non-lawyer attorney general and how these issues would apply, as well as the more common situation of lawyers with other portfolios.

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