Role of Solicitor-General and functions of Crown Law Office

Press Release – New Zealand Government

A review will commence in October 2011 on the scope and focus of the Solicitor-General’s role and the operating model of the Crown Law Office, Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson announced today.Hon Christopher Finlayson
Attorney-General

7 October 2011

Review of role of Solicitor-General and functions of Crown Law Office

A review will commence in October 2011 on the scope and focus of the Solicitor-General’s role and the operating model of the Crown Law Office, Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson announced today.

“The purpose of the review is to consider all aspects of the roles and functions of the Solicitor-General and determine how these could be discharged most effectively and efficiently, reflecting the constitutional context, and including the organisational support for the role and functions,” Mr. Finlayson said

The role of the Solicitor-General has previously been looked at in 1986 and 2006.

“Both the Crown Law Office and the Solicitor-General have a critical role in ensuring the Government can confidently and lawfully advance its goals and vision. The review will provide advice on whether a single role can successfully combine the responsibilities of Solicitor-General, which range from chief executive functions to litigation and advice. It will address this question in the context of the scope and complexity of the constitutional environment within which Crown Law is currently operating.”

Auckland lawyer Miriam Dean, QC, and David Cochrane, Special Counsel with Simpson Grierson, have been appointed as the independent reviewers. Ms Dean is the current president of the Bar Association and was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to law and business in 2010. Mr Cochrane has 35 years experience in central government and private practice, including nine years as a Parliamentary Counsel.

The review will focus on the following areas:

• What the scope and focus of the Solicitor-General’s role ought to be, including whether any existing functions (such as the principal legal advisor and principal counsel roles) should be separated structurally or operationally;

• What changes, if any, should be made to the operating model of the Crown Law Office;

• The role of the Crown Law Office in improving the quality of legal advice and the management of legal risk across government. This includes consideration of the option that legal advisors working in government departments be employed centrally rather than by the chief executive of the relevant department.

The reviewers will be supported by a Reference Group of senior officials convened by the Secretary for Justice and by a secretariat.

The review will be conducted in two phases between October 2011 and February 2012 with a final report to the Attorney-General by 29 February 2012.

Terms of Reference

In 1986 and again in 2006 and 2011, the question has been asked whether one person can successfully fill the demanding role of Solicitor-General. The Solicitor-General is principal legal advisor and principal counsel for the Crown, undertakes the independent law officer functions of the Crown, is the supervisor of indictable offences, and is chief executive of a government department, the Crown Law Office.

The Attorney-General has requested a comprehensive review of the role and functions of the Solicitor-General and the Crown Law Office.

Purpose

The review will consider all aspects of the role and functions of the Solicitor-General and determine how these can be discharged most effectively and efficiently, reflecting the constitutional context, and including the organisational support required for the role and functions.

Scope

In formulating its views the review will need to consider decisions or results from other reviews and initiatives:

• Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) Review for Crown Law Office
• Review of New Zealand’s Public Prosecution Services
• Review of the Crown Solicitors Regulations
• The Government Legal Services (GLS) work programme
• Review of the State Sector Act 1988.

Approach and Timing

The review will be undertaken by two independent reviewers. While it is intended that the two reviewers will work collaboratively, one reviewer will take the lead role.

A reference group of senior officials to support the reviewers will be convened and chaired by the Secretary for Justice.

The independent reviewers will provide a report to the Attorney-General by 29 February 2012.

The review will be conducted in two phases between October 2011 and February 2012, to allow for consideration of decisions from the Review of New Zealand’s Public Prosecution Services.

Research and interview phase October 2011
Develop a draft report for consultation with Central Agencies and Crown Law Office By mid February 2012
Final report to Attorney-General By end February 2012

Roles & Responsibilities

The Review will be undertaken by persons with a deep understanding of the constitutional context of the role and functions of the Solicitor-General, and how this is supported by the functions of the Crown Law Office.

The reviewers will be supported by a secretariat with officials from the State Services Commission, Treasury, and Crown Law.

ENDS

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