Reconceiving the Standard Conception of the Prosecutor's Role

(2017) 95(3) Canadian Bar Review 795

39 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2017 Last revised: 13 May 2018

Alice Woolley

University of Calgary

Date Written: August 26, 2017


The standard conception of the prosecutor’s role requires her to seek justice, to be a “minister of justice”, who ensures that an accused receives a fair trial on the merits. This paper challenges the standard conception of the prosecutor’s role. It argues that the seek justice ethic undermines judicial decision-making about prosecutorial duties and conduct. It has no evident meaning, is internally contradictory, and incorporates concepts of morality rather than legality, such that it cannot usefully explain a lawyer’s duties within a system of law. Fundamentally, it fails to describe the work that prosecutors actually do. The paper proposes a redefined standard conception that captures the dual roles that a prosecutor plays: deciding whether and how to pursue a criminal mater, and acting as an advocate in a criminal trial.

Keywords: legal ethics, criminal law, prosecutors

JEL Classification: K14, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Woolley, Alice, Reconceiving the Standard Conception of the Prosecutor's Role (August 26, 2017). (2017) 95(3) Canadian Bar Review 795. Available at SSRN:

Alice Woolley (Contact Author)

University of Calgary ( email )

University Drive
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4

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