David Dorsett v Attorney General was an appeal by David Dorsett, an attorney at law, who called upon the Court of Appeal to answer the question of whether an attorney can be appointed amicus curiae against his will. Although this question had become largely academic at the date of the hearing due to a change in circumstances, the Court heard the appeal as it was a matter of public importance under our system of law.
It was the appellant’s contention that such an appointment offended his right under the Code of Ethics to refuse or withdraw from employment.
The Court found that the power to appoint an attorney amicus curiae is derived from the court’s inherent jurisdiction, i.e. its reserve of powers as a superior court that is essential to the administration of justice and the maintenance of the rule of law and the Constitution. Any limitation on this inherent jurisdiction must arise from express legislation or necessary implication. The Code of Ethics does not meet either of these criteria, and so cannot limit the inherent jurisdiction of the court to appoint an attorney amicus curiae. The appellant therefore could not rely on the Code of Ethics to decline his appointment.
The Court also observed that the product of our adversarial system of justice is that court orders are almost invariably made against the will of persons, save for consent orders. Every person who is subject to an order of the court risks facing sanctions for contempt for failure to obey. Therefore, the order of the court appointing the appellant as amicus curiae was not made in vain, simply because it was made against his will.