Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.
Definition of Amicus Curiae
Let's say that you believe strongly that marijuana should be legal in the United States for medicinal purposes only. You are aware that there is a case going to the Supreme Court, and you want to try and influence the Court's decision. Even though you are not involved directly in the action, you want to file a brief in support of your position. This type of brief is an amicus curiae brief.
Amicus curiae translates from Latin to 'friend of the court', and that's exactly what an amicus curiae brief represents. An amicus curiae brief is a legal document submitted by a person or group that is not involved directly in the particular action. Rather, the brief is submitted by a party who has the same or similar interests in the outcome of the case. Consequently, that person or group will file an amicus curiae brief outlining the arguments as to why the case should be ruled in a certain way. The goal of the party filing the amicus curiae brief is to sway the court to decide in their favor.
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Purposes of Amicus Curiae Briefs
Initially, one may file an amicus curiae brief in order to support an argument previously made by a party involved in the case. Another reason is to point out new arguments in the case which have not been introduced previously. Moreover, the amicus curiae brief can serve to demonstrate to the court the consequence of a certain decision. For instance, the outcome of a case can lend to a social, political, legal or economic result. Ultimately, the amicus curiae brief can serve any or all of the aforementioned purposes.
Examples of Amicus Curiae
In order to fully understand amicus curiae briefs, it can be useful to review some examples. First, imagine that there is a law that does not allow a town to have a transfer station. The law is subject to a challenge and is before the Supreme Court. You own a transfer station, and the ban on the transfer stations causes you to lose your business. As a result, you have a serious stake in the matter and file an amicus curiae brief to ensure that the Court knows your situation and side of the controversy.
Let's also imagine a scenario where you are in support of gun control laws. You lead a local community group that believes in this cause and want to support a gun control case that is currently before the Supreme Court. As a result, you gather your arguments and have an attorney draft an amicus curiae brief in support of the cause. You specifically insert arguments that other parties have not yet made, in the hopes that the Court will review and acknowledge your viewpoint and, hopefully, decide the case in your favor.
An amicus curiae brief, which means 'friend of the court' in Latin, is a legal document submitted by a person or group that is not involved directly in the particular action, that lets them explain how a case should be ruled a certain way. In essence, it allows the general public to have a voice when it comes to significant legal issues. It's always to support a particular issue; it provides additional arguments to the court regarding the issue that they might not have heard already, and to demonstrate a potential impact - social, political, legal, economic, etc. - the decision could have.
Every court allows these briefs, not just the Supreme Court, but each court has different rules as to the method of filing. Hence, be sure to check the court's rules for filing an amicus curiae brief. In today's complex world, an amicus curiae brief can give normal citizens the ability to influence the court's decision and bring important political issues to the court's attention.
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Amicus Curiae Briefs: Definition & Example
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