View Full Version : Amicus Curiae

12-17-2010, 10:38 AM
Amicus curiae
Amicus curiae...

An amicus curiae (also spelled amicus curić; plural amici curiae) is someone, not a party to a case, who volunteers to offer information to assist a court in deciding a

matter before it. The information provided may be a legal opinion in the form of a brief (which is called an amicus brief when offered by an amicus curiae), a testimony

that has not been solicited by any of the parties, or a learned treatise on a matter that bears on the case. The decision on whether to admit the information lies at the

discretion of the court. The phrase amicus curiae is legal Latin and literally means "friend of the court".


The amicus curiae figure originates in Roman law. Starting in the 9th century, it was incorporated to English law, and was later extended to most of common law

systems. Later, it was also introduced in international law, in particular concerning human rights. From there, it was integrated in some civil law systems (it has

recently been integrated in Argentina). Today, it is used by the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-

American Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of European Union.


In prominent cases, amici curiae are generally organizations with sizable legal budgets. Non-profit legal advocacy organizations such as the American Civil Liberties

Union, the Landmark Legal Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Center for Law and Justice or NORML frequently submit such briefs to

advocate for or against a particular legal change or interpretation. If a decision could affect an entire industry, companies other than the litigants may wish to have

their concerns heard. In the United States, federal courts often hear cases involving the constitutionality of state laws. Hence states themselves may file briefs as

amici curiae when their laws are likely to be affected, as in the Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago when thirty-two states under the aegis of Texas (and

California independently) filed such briefs.

Amici curiae that do not file briefs often present an academic perspective on the case. For example, if the law gives deference to a history of legislation of a certain

topic, a historian may choose to evaluate the claim using their expertise. An economist, statistician, or sociologist may choose to do the same. Blogs, newspaper

editorials, and other opinion pieces arguably have the capability to influence Supreme Court decisions as de facto amici curiae. They are not, however, considered

as an actual amicus curiae in the sense that they do not submit materials to the Court, do not need to ask for leave, and have no guarantee that they will be read.

The court has broad discretion to grant or to deny permission to act as amicus curiae. Very controversial or far-reaching cases generally attract several such briefs.

Legal interpretations

[A] phrase that literally means 'friend of the court' – someone who is not a party to the litigation, but who believes that the court's decision may affect its interest.

Rules defining use in the United States...

An amicus curiae brief that brings to the attention of the Court 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 not favored.