20 March 2017

Queen's Counsel and other things that sound alike #nlpoli

"The Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, today announced this year's appointments to Queen's Counsel by the Lieutenant Governor in Council."

That's the lede from a news release issued in January about appointments for lawyers.  On Friday, there was a little ceremony at Supreme Court in St. John's where the lawyers appointed as counsel to Her Majesty received their new robes.  They are made of silk instead of ordinary material, hence the phrase "take silk"  when one gets a QC appointment.

Anyway,  the sticklers may have already noticed the problem with the government news release.

One is appointed *to* a council, which is a group of individuals, but one is appointed *as* counsel, meaning that one is an advisor.  So yes, one can be counsel to a council, which is what the Attorney General is, for example.  He or she is the government's chief legal advisor and so is the law counsel to the Executive Council.  The correct sentence would have been "announcement of lawyers appointed as Queen's Counsel" or something to that effect.  If there was a simple explanation of qualifications for getting this disctinction - like say, long service, it might have gone there as well.

The error in the government news release the sort of detail that is like nails on chalkboard to folks whose business it is to be accurate about such matters. Feel free to come up with a more modern simile for irritation.


When did it start?  Update:

The always annoying labradore produced a list via email this morning comparing every QC email issued since 1996. That's the year the government website went live.

The provincial government issued seven news releases between 1996 and 2003 announcing QC appointments. They described the appointment of individuals as Queen's Counsel.

Started in 2004,  someone decided to call them appointments *to* Queen's Counsel, which is wrong. 

There have been 11 such releases since 2004.