amicus curiae

(redirected from Friend-of-the-court brief)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Financial.

Amicus Curiae

Literally, friend of the court. A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action, may petition the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views. Such amicus curiae briefs are commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of a broad public interest; e.g., civil rights cases. They may be filed by private persons or the government. In appeals to the U.S. courts of appeals, an amicus brief may be filed only if accompanied by written consent of all parties, or by leave of court granted on motion or at the request of the court, except that consent or leave shall not be required when the brief is presented by the United States or an officer or agency thereof.

An amicus curiae educates the court on points of law that are in doubt, gathers or organizes information, or raises awareness about some aspect of the case that the court might otherwise miss. The person is usually, but not necessarily, an attorney, and is usually not paid for her or his expertise. An amicus curiae must not be a party to the case, nor an attorney in the case, but must have some knowledge or perspective that makes her or his views valuable to the court.

The most common arena for amici curiae is in cases that are under appeal (are being reconsidered by the court) and where issues of public interest—such as social questions or civil liberties—are being debated. Cases that have drawn participation from amici curiae are those involving Civil Rights (such as 1952's brown v. board of education), Capital Punishment, environmental protection, gender equality, infant Adoption, and Affirmative Action. Amici curiae have also informed the court about narrower issues, such as the competency of a juror; or the correct procedure for completing a deed or will; or evidence that a case is collusive or fictitious—that is, that the parties are not being honest with the court about their reasons for being there.

The privilege that friends of the court are granted to express their views in a case is just that: amici curiae have no right to appear or to file briefs. Unless they represent the government, amici curiae must obtain leave (permission) to do so from the court, or consent of all parties in the case, before filing. No court is obligated to follow or even to consider the advice of an amicus curiae, even one it has invited.

The principle that guides the appropriate role of a friend of the court is that he or she should serve the court without also acting as "friend" to either of the parties. Rules of court and case law (past court decisions) have attempted to spell out the sometimes tricky specifics of how an amicus curiae should—and should not—participate in a case.

For example, Missouri's supreme court in 1969 distinguished the role of amicus curiae from the normal role of the attorney in assisting the court. In this case, the court requested the attorney who had formerly represented the parties in the case to help elicit testimony and cross-examine witnesses. The lawyer also made objections and argued objections against the city, which was defending the lawsuit over Zoning. In seeking the payment of attorney fees for his services, the attorney argued that he had served as amicus curiae due to his acting at the court's request. The supreme court found that "in the orderly and intelligent presentation of the case, he rendered assistance to the court, the same as any attorney who contributes to the orderly presentation of a case. He was appearing, however, not as an adviser to the court but as a representative of private litigants … advancing their partisan interests … and is not entitled to have the fee for his admittedly valuable and competent professional services taxed as costs" (Kansas City v. Kindle, 446 S.W. 2d 807 [Mo. 1969]).

The amicus curiae walks a fine line between providing added information and advancing the cause of one of the parties. For instance, she or he cannot raise issues that the parties themselves do not raise, since that is the task of the parties and their attorneys. If allowed by the court, amici curiae can file briefs (called briefs amicus curiae or amicus briefs), argue the case, and introduce evidence. However, they may not make most motions, file pleadings, or manage the case.

Whether participating by leave or by invitation, in an appearance or with a brief amicus curiae, a friend of the court is a resource person who has limited capacity to act.

Further readings

Jost, Kenneth. 2001. "The Amicus Industry." California Lawyer 21 (October): 40.

Hollis, Duncan B. 2002. "Private Actors in Public International Law: Amicus Curiae and the Case for the Retention of State Sovereignty." Boston College International and Comparative Law Review 25 (spring): 235–55.

Robbins, Josh. 2003. "False Friends: Amicus Curiae and Procedural Discretion in WTO Appeals Under the Hotrolled Lead/Asbestos Doctrine." Harvard International Law Journal 44 (winter): 317–329.

amicus curiae

n. Latin for "friend of the court," a party or an organization interested in an issue which files a brief or participates in the argument in a case in which that party or organization is not one of the litigants. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union often files briefs on behalf of a party who contends his constitutional rights have been violated, even though the claimant has his own attorney. Friends of the Earth or the Sierra Club may file a supporting brief in an environmental action in which they are not actually parties. Usually the court must give permission for the brief to be filed and arguments may only be made with the agreement of the party the amicus curiae is supporting, and that argument comes out of the time allowed for that party's presentation to the court.

amicus curiae

noun advocate, champion, friend in court, intercessor, intervening party, party, representative, speaker
Associated concepts: amicus brief, amicus motion to interrene

amicus curiae

‘friend of the court’, a person who is not actually involved in a case as a party but who brings a matter to the attention of the court. Usually the issue involves the public interest. It is not a universally applicable procedure.

AMICUS CURIAE, practice. A friend of the court. One, who as a stander by, when a judge is doubtful or mistaken in a matter of law, may inform the court. 2 Inst. 178; 2 Vin. Abr. 475; and any one, as amicus curia, may make an application to the court in favor of an infant, though he be no relation. 1 Ves. Sen. 313.

References in periodicals archive ?
In a separate friend-of-the-court brief, the Knights of Columbus called for the lower court to be overturned.
Americans United was among the groups that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that the school district was promoting school-sponsored prayers.
Just prior to his appointment, Starr had announced he was at work on friend-of-the-court brief in the Paula Jones case the brief was to argue that Clinton's incumbency did not shield him from civil lawsuits.
On March 11, APHA and 15 other advocacy groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S.
Gallant represented the Michigan Association before the Sixth Circuit and filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Shalala v.
AICPA Files Successful Friend-of-the-Court Brief in Suit Against CPA Firm
* The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy has filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Florida's case against American Express.
In welcome contrast was a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by a group of Christian and Jewish communities who joined with the U.S.
On behalf of the NationalAssociation of Home Builders and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, a friend-of-the-court brief was recently filed.
In its friend-of-the-court brief, TEI argued that the Constitution does not permit apportionment of a consolidated or unitary multistate tax base without taking into account the corresponding apportionment factors of the businesses in the group generating the income or value comprising the tax base.
A friend-of-the-court brief has been filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists.