In recent years, controversy has surrounded the role of top government lawyers in the United States and the United Kingdom. Allegations of bad lawyering and bad ethics in public office over the ’torture memos’ in the United States and the political pressure placed on the Attorney-General in the United Kingdom to approve the legality of the Iraq war, have seen these relatively obscure group of government lawyers thrust into the public debate. Unlike its Anglo-American contemporaries, Australia’s chief legal adviser, the Solicitor-General, has remained largely out of the public eye. This collection provides a rare and overdue insight into a fundamental public institution in all Australian jurisdictions. It provides a historical, theoretical, practical and comparative perspective of this little known, but vitally important, office at a time when the transparency and accountability of government has taken on an increased significance. Of interest to anyone interested in the integrity of government, the book will be particularly useful to government, political parties and the academy. It will also be a valuable reference work to those working towards a redefinition of the role of top government legal advisors.
’This timely collection by a star-studded cast of scholars and jurists draws attention to the importance of the role of Solicitor-General in Australia and elsewhere in maintaining the rule of law, in the face of the strains to which it presently is subject. The book should be welcomed by all government lawyers as an explanation and celebration of the difficult path they often tread.’ Cheryl Saunders, University of Melbourne, Australia ’The role of solicitor-generals is pivotal to the administration of modern government in modern democracies. Uniquely situated on the shifting boundary between law and party politics, the performance and approaches of these officers offer a glimpse into the workings of both worlds. However, there is little sustained or critical study on the nature and challenges of the role. Fortunately, this book does a wonderful job at plugging that gap. Although focused primarily on the Australian situation, it nevertheless provides important insights into both the general role of such government officials and the rule of law generally.’ Allan C. Hutchinson, York University, Canada ’’Public Sentinels is an important book for anyone interested in the rule of law and the control of the exercise of public power. It will be of interest not only to Australians but to all those around the world who are concerned with issues of transparency and accountability for the exercise of public power.’ Adam Dodek, University of Ottawa, Canada ’Government lawyers are not simply providers of legal services. They are custodians of the rule of law: responsible for the legality of legislative and executive action and contributing to its integrity and consistency. This collection of essays, focussed on the position of Australian Solicitors-General, highlights the resultant public benefits and inherent professional challenges.’ Hon Justice Stephen Gageler, High Court of Australia