What is an Amicus Brief?

An amicus brief is a legal document that individuals or organizations submit to the court because they have an interest in the pending case, even though they are not directly a party to the case itself. The phrase “amicus brief” comes from the Latin word for “friend,” and thus phrase itself means “friend of the court.”

While those filing the amicus brief are not involved in the litigation of the case, they can submit their brief to offer further information, expertise, arguments, or perspectives that can help the court decide in favor of the party which the “amici curiae”—or the group submitting the amicus brief—supports. Furthermore, the parties in the case can use the brief to offer outside legal analysis that can guide the court’s decision, and judges at all levels of the court system can rely on these briefs to help decide the case before them. Part of their “amicus curiae’s” argument is usually that the case’s decision will affect their or others’ interests in society at large. Therefore, they are submitting a brief to the court to ensure that interest is fully represented.

For example, the American Cornerstone Institute recently submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case Loper Bright Enterprises v. Gina Raimondo, which challenges Chevron doctrine head-on and argues that there is no constitutional basis for deference to agency interpretation of statutes or regulations. ACI’s hope is that the Supreme Court considers our argument and uses some of the historical background we offer to come to a favorable decision and return legal interpretation back to Congress and the courts.

The specific requirements for amicus briefs vary depending on the court system in which the brief will be submitted, but they usually follow some general rules. For instance, according to the Supreme Court’s amicus brief rules, those intending to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court may do so with the parties’ written consent, or the parties can offer blanket consent to filing all amicus briefs. These briefs must be filed within 30 days after the case is placed on the Court’s docket or whenever the Court calls for a response, whichever is later. The brief must include the interest of the party submitting the brief, the summary of the argument, the argument itself, a conclusion, and a cover page. An amicus brief submitted at the merits stage by a non-governmental entity (such as ACI) is limited to 8,000 words, typed in 12-point Century font, and printed double-sided, among other rules.

In short, an amicus brief is an opportunity for a person or organization with an interest in the outcome of a case to submit an argument to the court to help guide the court’s decision, even though they are not a party to the case. These briefs provide insight, analysis, facts, and perspectives that the parties may not always represent, and they can prove valuable resources for judges in their decisions.