Conduct of Public Service Lawyers

Lawyers who are employed as Commonwealth Public Servants are not only governed by the APS Code of Conduct they are also governed by the ethics of the legal profession. That is the theory anyway.

From the earliest of time lawyers have been characterised as officers of the court, a point that finds expression in the legal profession legislation.

Accordingly, a lawyer’s duty to the court is “paramount” or “overriding”, a point reiterated in various professional rules.

In this context “court” is not limited courts and tribunals but extends to inquiries established or conducted under statute or by Parliament, Royal Commissions, and an arbitration or mediation or any form of dispute resolution.

The legal practitioners “paramount duty” is discussed in Ginnarelli v Wraith (1988) 165 CLR 543-566 per Mason CJ, at 572 per Wilson J. The transcript of this case can be found here.

These duties are not limited to the making of oral submissions to a court or tribunal, but extend to the performance by lawyers of any act in the course of practising their profession {Kyle v Legal Practitioners Complaints Committee (1999) 56 at 60 per Ipp J}

A lawyer is obliged to uphold the rule of law and to facilitate the administration of justice.


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