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What Is an Amicus Brief? Here’s What You Need To Know

Many court cases have the potential to affect more than the parties involved: groups, organizations, and even the general public can experience the ramifications of a court decision. If you’re in this situation, an amicus brief lets you present your insights and concerns to the judge hearing the case. 

In this article, we answer the question “What is an amicus brief?” and explain how Record Press can help you with a brief that shares your perspectives with the court and may even impact the case outcome. 

What are amicus briefs?

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The term “amicus brief” actually comes from “amicus curiae,” which means “friend of the court” in Latin. This “friend” is a third party with a special expertise or interest in the case. These briefs are especially common in state and federal appellate courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court.

Most amicus briefs are filed in response to a petition for a writ of certiorari, which advises the court on whether it should hear the case. Others are filed on the merits of the litigation, meaning they present arguments in a case already being heard.

The Rules of the Supreme Court state that an amicus brief should present “relevant matter not already brought to its attention” by the involved parties. These briefs are valuable because they present viewpoints or data the court might not otherwise access. Their insights can also help judges consider the broader implications of their rulings.

Who files amicus briefs normally?

Several individuals and entities have filed amicus briefs to inform and influence judicial rulings. One notable example is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, in 1971, wrote a brief for Reed v. Reed. This case—one of her first with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—ultimately determined that discrimination based on sex violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

You don’t have to be a lawyer to write an amicus brief, although it must be submitted to the court by an attorney in good standing. Parties like those below can use them to contribute to the court’s understanding without being directly involved in the case.

  • Non-Profit Organizations: Groups that advocate for environmental conservation, social justice, or human rights frequently submit amicus briefs. Examples include the ACLU, the National Council of Nonprofits, and the Council on Foundations.
  • Professional Associations: Certain professional organizations, such as the American Medical Association (AMA), provide expert perspectives on cases affecting their fields. For example, in 2021, the AMA filed an amicus brief showing medical opposition to abortion restriction legislation in Mississippi.
  • Businesses and Trade Groups: Companies and coalitions, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often weigh in on cases with potential economic or regulatory impacts. Not too long ago, the Chamber of Commerce filed amicus briefs in federal supplemental unemployment benefits cases.
  • Legal Advocacy Groups: Legal advocacy organizations like the Innocence Project have submitted briefs in cases related to criminal justice reform. In State of Wisconsin v. Michael R. Griep, the Innocence Project provided an amicus brief supporting the defendant’s right to cross-examine an expert witness.
  • Academic Institutions: Colleges and universities may file briefs to present research findings or academic insights relevant to a case. In 2022, The University of Michigan filed an amicus brief in support of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, two universities involved in a lawsuit looking to remove race as a consideration in college and university admissions.
  • Government Entities: Government agencies and legislative bodies often submit amicus briefs to present their views on cases affecting public policy. For example, in 2022, the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission filed a brief in Delaware Chancery Court regarding a petition to revive a defunct corporation for possible use in a future reverse merger.

Whether you’re an expert in your field, a concerned citizen, or a member of an organization with valuable insights, filing an amicus brief lets you contribute to the legal discourse. At Record Press, we provide the services and support to uplift your voice.

Why file an amicus brief? 5 key reasons

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An amicus brief can influence case outcomes and even public policy. If you’re thinking about filing one, here are five key reasons why individuals and entities take this important step.

Your group is directly affected by the decision

If a court ruling might affect your organization’s day-to-day functions, fundamental rights, or core mission, an amicus brief can help protect your interests. It enables you to lay out your concerns and insights so that the judges grasp the full scope of the ruling’s implications for your organization. This is your chance to highlight the broader impact of the case and advocate for a decision that respects your organization’s stake in the matter.

The decision sets a precedent for similar cases

Many organizations submit amicus briefs to help set legal rules that could impact future court decisions. By doing this, you play a part in shaping laws to reflect what you believe in and aim to achieve. 

This effort supports your cause and influences how future cases might be decided. It’s a way to push for legal changes that benefit your group’s mission, guiding the law in a direction that aligns with your values. By adding your voice through an amicus brief, your perspectives are considered in the legal framework. You also actively participate in making changes and improving laws.

You have an expert perspective to provide

When your organization holds specific knowledge or expertise pertinent to a case, submitting an amicus brief is a smart move. Courts appreciate these detailed insights, as they can clear up complex issues or bring fresh evidence to light. This not only aids the court in understanding the case better but also positions your organization as a thought leader in your field. 

By presenting well-researched information through an amicus brief, you contribute valuable viewpoints that might otherwise be overlooked. Sharing your unique expertise in this way can have a lasting impact on the law and public policy.

You can educate the court on a topic

There are times when the parties directly involved in a case might not fully cover all aspects of a matter. Your amicus brief can fill these gaps by offering extra information, background history, or details on complex issues. This way, you’re not just adding information: you’re giving the court a better picture of the case. This deeper understanding can be crucial for the court’s final decision.

They offer a great marketing opportunity

Filing an amicus brief does more than just impact the law; it’s also a strong way to showcase your organization’s dedication to key issues. This action highlights your commitment, making your group more visible to those who care about these topics.

By sharing your insights in a brief, you attract attention from potential allies, members, or clients who share your values. This can lead to more support and a larger network of people who believe in your cause. In short, an amicus brief is a smart way to get noticed for the right reasons by the right people.

How to write an amicus brief: 4 essential elements

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Putting together an amicus brief requires a clear understanding of its structure and purpose. This document—which averages 6,000 to 9,000 words—should persuade and inform, so its format and content are critical. Here are four essential elements that need to be included in a Supreme Court amicus brief, along with information on how to optimize each one. Other courts have different requirements, but this list is exhaustive. Need help with a specific court? Record Press may be able to help.

Cover Page

The cover page sets the stage. It should clearly list the case name, number, and the court to which the brief is submitted. Including the title “Amicus Curiae” followed by your organization’s name indicates your role as a friend of the court. 

It is important to note that at the petition stage, all covers must be cream-colored. At the merits stage, a brief supporting the petitioner (or supporting neither party) should have a pale green cover while those in favor of the respondent must be dark green.

Here are some other key considerations when putting your cover page together:

  • Use the case caption as it appears on the court’s docket unless directed otherwise by the clerk’s office. If you’re handling consolidated cases with multiple captions, include all case numbers and the caption of the case with the lowest docket number, adding “(For Continuation of Caption, See Inside Cover)“.
  • Display the counsel of record’s name, office address, email, and phone number. While other attorneys’ names can be listed, non-attorneys and those who contributed to the brief’s preparation should not be credited.
  • The title should reflect amici (parties) joining the brief. If the list is too long, use “et al” or summarize the amici curiae appropriately. Indicate which party the amicus supports or if the brief suggests affirmance or reversal. 

Table of Contents and Table of Authorities

If your amicus brief exceeds 1,500 words, it must contain a Table of Contents and a Table of Authorities. The former should outline your brief’s structure, including headings and subheadings, while the latter lists all legal sources cited, such as cases, statutes, and other relevant materials. Organize these references in alphabetical order and ensure precise page citations.

Interests of the Amicus Curiae

Here, explain why your organization is interested in the case and how the outcome affects you or your constituents. Be succinct yet compelling in stating your connection to the issue at hand. This section justifies your participation and can persuade the court of your brief’s relevance. Sharing unique insights or perspectives related to your group’s mission can strengthen your argument.

Rule 37.6 Disclosures

According to Supreme Court Rule 37.6, amici curiae must disclose in the brief’s first footnote whether a party’s counsel authored the brief in whole or in part and if any monetary contributions were made towards the brief’s preparation or submission. 

You must list every individual, aside from the amicus itself, its members, or counsel, who provided monetary support for the brief. If no external monetary contributions were made, it’s best practice to state this fact clearly. This transparency helps maintain the integrity of your submission while complying with the court’s expectations.

Need to file an amicus brief? Record Press knows what you need

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By providing valuable information and insights to the courts, amicus briefs hold the power to positively influence justice. However, the strict guidelines for their format and content can present significant challenges. This is where Record Press can help. Let us handle the technicalities so you can focus on contributing your perspective.

With over 70 years of experience in appellate procedure across state and federal levels, our team brings unmatched expertise. We specialize in filing amicus briefs during both the merit and petition stages. The filing process varies by region and court, so we understand the different preferences and requirements of the various appellate courts and will ensure that your brief is formatted for its intended audience.

Our services go beyond filing alone. We also print, file, and serve all copies of the brief in 6” x 9” format with perfect binding. Since your firm likely doesn’t have the machines necessary to print these at scale, you can take advantage of our printing and filing services.Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.