The Declining Role of Lawyers in Elected Office

The Declining Role of Lawyers in Elected Office

Fewer lawyers are being elected to Nova Scotia’s Legislative Assembly in recent years. In this article, the author traces the decline over the past decades, provides some hypotheses as to why this trend has occurred, and analyzes what the relative absence of lawyers in a representative legislative body may mean. He cites the 1970s as a turning point for the decline of MLA-lawyers and suspects the shift from part-time work to full-time duties as an MLA, the relatively low salary compared to professional fees, and the poor post-politics job prospects, contributed to making the role less of a draw for practicing lawyers. The author also highlights skills lawyers may bring to the role of an MLA in terms of writing legislation and helping constituents with casework. He concludes by examining the Attorney General and Minister of Justice roles and the potential legal/constitutional questions that may arise if and when this cabinet position and the deputy minister position are occupied by non-lawyers.

There is a common perception that lawyers dominate our elected assemblies. It was true at one time, but it is not true today.

Who Speaks for Parliament?: Hansard, the Courts and Legislative Intent

Who Speaks for Parliament?: Hansard, the Courts and Legislative Intent

Two significant Supreme Court rulings from the 1990s have opened the door to using Hansard Debates to divine a parliament’s intent in court cases which challenge understandings of laws. Although the Supreme Court rulings stressed that use of Hansard as a source in legal proceedings should be strictly limited, subsequent lower courts have not always observed these limits. In this article, the author outlines these developments and explains how the more liberal use of Hansard in courts can be problematic. He concludes by cautioning parliamentarians to be mindful of how the words they use during debate may be used by the courts in the future, and urges the courts to consider how some parliamentarians might begin using their speeches in parliament to win in court what they could not in a legislature.