Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Attorney General

Attorney-General, the principal counsel of the Crown appointed by patent to hold office during the Queen's pleasure. He is attorney for the Queen, and stands in precisely the same relation to her as every other attorney (now solicitor) does to his employer. The addition of the term "general" in the name of the office probably took place in order to distinguish him from attorneys appointed to act for the Crown in particular courts, such as the Attorney for the Court of Wards, or the Master of the Crown Office, whose official name is "Coroner and Attorney for the Queen" in the Queen's Bench Division of the Supreme Court. By degrees the office has become one of great dignity and importance. As counsel he is bound to conduct prosecutions and other legal proceedings on behalf of the Crown if required to do so. He also acts as representative of the Crown in matters connected with charities, patents, and criminal proceedings instituted by Government. His functions are, however, political as well as legal, for he is almost invariably a member of the House of Commons, and one of the Ministry of the day, though not of the Cabinet. He is appointed to his office on the advice of the Government for the time being. There is therefore a change of Attorney-General on every change of Government. In the House of Commons he answers questions on legal matters of public interest, and has charge of Government measures relating to legal subjects. The Attorney-General grants fiats for Writs of Error. When the House of Lords sits in a Committee of Privileges it is the duty of the Attorney-General to attend at the Bar, in a judicial capacity, and report on the claim. He also allows applications for patents. All questions respecting precedency of the Attorney and Solicitor-General were terminated by a special warrant of King George IV., when Prince Regent, in the year 1811, by which it was arranged that these officers should have place and audience at the head of the English Bar. A discussion arose in 1834 on the hearing of a Scottish appeal in the House of Lords, upon the question of precedence between the Attorney-General and the Lord Advocate of Scotland, which was finally decided in favour of the former.

The Prince of Wales has an attorney-general, and when there is a Queen Consort she has one also.

In the United States the Attorney-General is a member of the Cabinet. He presides over the Department of Justice, advising the president, etc., on questions of law. He also conducts suits in the United States Courts when necessary, gives legal opinions on behalf of the Government, examines titles to land purchased by the Government for public use, and superintends the proceedings of the Courts.