The Attorney General and the Solicitor General
Marlene Malahoo Forte, QC, JP, MP
Attorney General of Jamaica
Nicole Foster-Pusey, QC, JP
Solicitor General of Jamaica
Roles and functions of the Attorney General
As the Principal Law Office of the Crown, the Attorney General’s Chambers is responsible for providing legal advice and representation of all ministries and Departments of Government. The Attorney General or his/her appointee appears for the Crown in all civil cases which must be instituted against the Attorney General, and pursuant to the Crown Proceedings Act his/her office also institutes civil proceedings on behalf of the Crown.
The Attorney General carries out numerous miscellaneous functions and powers: he/she may initiate or intervene in certain legal proceedings of a public nature, for example:-
- Those relating to the administration of charities;
- Under the Patent law his/her certificate that an application for Letters Patent is legally in order is a prerequisite of the grant;
- To prevent the continuation of a public nuisance;
- He/She is also empowered to institute enquires in connection with petitions for the grant or revocation of patents, and may make orders as to who should bear the costs;
- He/She may on his own initiative, or on the application of a third party or relator, institute proceedings in respect of statutory duties;
- He/She may take action to restrain a corporation from exceeding its statutory powers;
- He/She may enforce public rights in an undefined residue of cases.
- He/She may make an application pursuant to the Vexatious Actions Act in relation to any person who habitually and persistently and without any reasonable grounds institutes vexatious proceedings.
No law can come into force without receiving the signature of the Governor General, but the Attorney General must first certify it.
The overall nature and responsibilities of the office of Attorney General require him/she to protect the public interest as parens patriae (parent of his/her country).
Even though the post of the Attorney General is a political one, it is also a professional post, and he/she should not be influenced by political considerations in giving legal opinions.
Within the legal profession he/she is the head of the Bar. It should be noted that he/she takes precedence at the Bar in matters before the court because he/she is the first law officer, he/she must set an example for the legal profession to follow, and he/she is, by statute, a member of the General Legal Council. The Attorney General need not be a Minister of Government, or a Member of Parliament. A private person may be appointed.
The office of the Solicitor General
The office of the Solicitor General was created in 1939 by the Solicitor General’s Act, which empowers the Solicitor General, subject always to the directions of the Attorney General, to perform any of the duties and exercise any of the powers of the Attorney General.
The Solicitor General is a civil servant and the administrative head of the Attorney General’s Chambers. Although at present the Attorney General is a political appointee, there is nothing to prevent his going to court to argue a matter should he/she choose to do so. In fact, Attorney General Leacroft Robinson appeared before the Privy Council in the celebrated case of Hinds vs. The Queen and Attorney General Victor Grant appeared in the case of Allen vs. Byfield.