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Amicus curiae or amicus curiƦ (plural amici curiae or amici curiƦ respectively) is a legal Latin phrase, literally translated as "friend of the court", that refers to someone, not a party to a case, who volunteers to offer information on a point of law or some other aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding a matter before it. The information may be a legal opinion in the form of a brief, 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 whether to admit the information lies with the discretion of the court.

History

The amicus curiae figure originates in Roman law. Starting in the 9th century, it was incorporated to British 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 Argentinamarker). Today, it is used by the European Court of Human Right, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Presentation

The role of an amicus is often confused with that of an intervener. The role of an amicus is, as stated by Salmon LJ (as Lord Salmon then was) in Allen v Sir Alfred McAlpine & Sons Ltd [1968] 2 QB 229 at p.266 F-G:

I had always understood that the role of an amicus curiae was to help the court by expounding the law impartially, or if one of the parties were unrepresented, by advancing the legal arguments on his behalf.


The situation most often noted in the press is when an advocacy group files a brief in a case before an appellate court to which it is not a litigant. Appellate cases are normally limited to the factual record and arguments coming from the lower court case under appeal; attorneys focus on the facts and arguments most favorable to their clients. Where a case may have broader implications, amicus curiae briefs are a way to introduce those concerns, so that the possibly broad legal effects of court decisions will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

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 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 Statesmarker, 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 Courtmarker 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

Rules defining use in the United States

See also



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