Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Conceptualizing Attorney General Conduct in Charter Litigation: From Independence to Central Agency

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Conceptualizing Attorney General Conduct in Charter Litigation: From Independence to Central Agency

Article excerpt

Abstract: The conduct of attorneys general in litigation involving the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been the subject of little theoretical contextualization by social scientists. Legal scholars, beginning with John Edwards, have dominated discussion of this issue to date, largely to advocate that attorneys general should act independently of their governments, because to do otherwise would, in their view, violate the Constitution. Without addressing the logic of that argument, this article offers an alternative conception of the role of attorneys general, derived from public administration theory: that attorney general litigation can be a central agency function, for both policy development (when governments "refer" draft legislation to the court for an assessment of its constitutionality) and for policy defence against judicial invalidation (after bureaucratic implementation, during regular litigation initiated by individuals and groups affected by the policy). The focus here is on Canada's attorney general, whose role in litigation has received the most scholarly attention to date. A series of cases involving same-sex marriage in 2003 is used to illustrate this alternative conceptualization. Evidence suggests that attorney general Martin Cauchon advanced his government's initial strategy of defending the traditional definition of marriage, contrary to his own belief that it was discriminatory under the Charter. The subsequent reference to the Supreme Court of Canada exemplifies how reference cases can be used by the political centre to manage the agenda in terms of timing and issue-framing.

Sommaire : La conduite des procureurs generaux dans les procedures impliquant la Charte des droits et libertes a fait l'objet de peu de contextualisation theorique de la part des specialistes en sciences sociales. Les juristes, a commencer par John Edwards, ont jusqu'a present domine les discussions sur cette question, principalement pour preconiser le fait que les procureurs generaux devraient agir de facon independante de leurs gouvernements, sinon, selon eux, cela porterait atteinte a la Constitution. Sans s'attarder sur la logique de cet argument, le present article offre une conception differente du role des procureurs generaux, decoulant de la theorie de l'administration publique : a savoir que les procureurs generaux a l'instance peuvent etre une fonction d'un organisme central, a la fois pour l'e1aboration de politiques (lorsque les gouvernements << renvoient >> des avant-projets de lois en Cour pour une evaluation de leur constitutionnalite) et pour la defense de politiques contre une annulation judiciaire (apres une mise en oeuvre bureaucratique, au cours de l'introduction d'une instance reguliere par des particuliers et des groupes touches par la politique). Le point central se pose sur le procureur general du Canada, dont le role dans les procedures a recu jusqu'a present le plus d'attention de la part des chercheurs. Une serie de cas ayant trait aux mariages de conjoints de meme sexe en 2003 a ete utilisee pour illustrer cette conceptualisation alternative. Les elements de preuve laissent entendre que le procureur general, Martin Cauchon, a promu la strategie initiale de son gouvernement consistant a defendre la definition traditionnelle du mariage, allant a l'encontre de ses propres convictions que cela etait discriminatoire en vertu de la Charte. Le renvoi subsequent a la Cour supreme du Canada illustre comment les affaires renvoyees a l'arbitrage peuvent etre utilisees par le centre politique pour gerer l'ordre du jour en termes de calendrier et des questions en jeu.

**********

The conduct of attorneys general in litigation involving the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been the subject of little theoretical contextualization by social scientists. Legal scholars have dominated discussion of this issue to date, largely to advocate that attorneys general should act independently of their governments when to do otherwise would, in their view, violate the Constitution. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.