Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Ambidexter Definition:

A lawyer who purports to act for both sides.

In Simon Mason's Case:

"A petition was exhibited against Simon Mason, and articles alleged and proved, inter alia, that he had been an ambidexter, viz. after he was retained by one side he was retained on the other side; and for this he was committed to the Fleet (prison) and turned out of the roll (disbarred).

"It is actionable (in defamation) to call an attorney ambidexter (unless truthful)."

In an anonymous case at 7 Mod. 47 (Case 64, circa 1702):

"No man, though by consent of the parties, can be attorney on both sides."

Also, a "juror who takes bribes from both sides to an action to promote their respective interests."1

The rules against ambidexters (a lawyer representing both sides to a legal controversy) have been relaxed somewhat as far as attorneys go, in some limited contexts. For example, the consent and knowledge of both sides is required, the matter must not be litigious or controversial, or the attorney may be retained by both sides to arbitrate or mediate the dispute, or to draft a settlement agreement.

REFERENCES:

  • Heard, Franklin Fiske, Curiosities of the Law Reporters (Boston: W.S. Bartlett, 1871), page 131.
  • NOTE 1: Mozley and Whiteley's Law Dictionary, 5th Ed. (London: Butterworth & Co., 1930), page 18.
  • Simon Mason's Case, Freeman's Reports, 2nd Ed., 73 (1672)

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