Asked in
Law & Legal Issues
US Supreme Court

What are Amicus Curiae briefs and who can file them?


User Avatar
Wiki User
August 17, 2017 2:43AM

The vehicle through which representatives of special interest groups are able to express opinions on matters before the Court is called an amicus curiae (pl. amici curiae), or "friend of the court" brief (or sometimes academic paper) related to questions of law or fact in the case at bar.

The group or individual filing the brief is not a party to the case, and has no legal standing to participate in litigation, but has an interest in the outcome. Often, the amicus presents a point of law or of psychological or sociological relevance to the case.

In order to be eligible to provide an amicus curiae, a person or group not party to the litigation under review, but who believes the Court's decision may affect its interest, may file if: 1) the brief is accompanied by written consent of all parties; or, 2) they file a motion for leave to submit amicus curiae to the Supreme Court, identifying why the "friend" has an interest in the case, and explaining the reasons the submission may be useful to the Court.

The Court is under no obligation to grant permission, nor to read the brief. Acceptance or rejection is solely at the Court's discretion, except when amici are filed by the United States, a U.S. agency, State, Territory, or Commonwealth. These are automatically accepted.

Rule 37(1) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States explains:

"An amicus curiae brief that brings to the attention of the relevant matter not already brought to its attention by the parties may be of considerable help to the Court. An amicus curiae brief that does not serve this purpose burdens the Court, and its filing is generally not favored."

At the request of chief counsel for either party, the Court may grant a motion of an amicus to participate in the oral argument. In this case, the Petitioner or Respondent (whichever is appropriate) must allocate part of his or her allotted 30 minutes for the amicus argument; the Court does not extend presentation time to accommodate additional speakers.

(The last two paragraphs apply only to the Supreme Court of the United States.)

Answer Normally, groups that have a financial, political, or philosophical reason to want the court to rule in a particular way in a given case ask the court for permission to file a brief as amicus curiae, and if the court grants permission then the group can do so.

Answer In lower court cases, Amicus curiae or friend of the court is someone who brings to the courts attention some point of law or fact something which would otherwise have been overlooked. Usually this would be a member of the bar and occasionally the law officers are asked or are allowed to argue a case in which they are not instructed to appear.