Though NJCJI focuses on the state level, a couple of stories in the news this week on the influence amicus briefs have on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision-making reaffirm the importance of NJCJI’s appellate program. Studies suggest that amicus briefs and other non-party sources are having a significant impact on the Justices’ decisions. NJCJI believes this is true at the state level as well.
At our spring luncheon, NJ Chief Justice Rabner encouraged audience members to get involved with the court by serving on judicial committees, volunteering for pro bono programs, and entering cases as amici. In response to an audience question, Rabner elaborated on his thoughts on amicus curiae briefs, stating the court found them “extremely helpful” because they focus on the broader impact of the issue at hand rather than the narrow interests of the parties in the case. He also stressed that quality, not quantity is key.
Amicus curiae is a Latin phrase literally translated as “friend of the court.” It is the name for a brief filed with the court by someone who is not a party to the case. To date, NJCJI has assisted with or participated in more than a dozen separate cases at the appellate and supreme court levels, focusing on broader civil justice implications that the parties cannot fully brief. NJCJI has three cases before the NJ Supreme Court this term.
Here are the stories on the importance of amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court:
Adam Liptak | New York Times
The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments.
Others stood out. They presented fresh, factual information that put the case in a broader context.
The justices are hungry for such data. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs.
Anthony J. Franze and R. Reeves Anderson | Supreme Court Brief
What do satirist P. J. O’Rourke, Senator Marco Rubio, the National Football League and 100 law professors have in common? They each filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2013-14 term. All told, the court received more than 800 amicus briefs in the 67 argued cases with signed opinions. That’s 24,000 pages or 7.2 million words — “War and Peace” a dozen times over. For court watchers, this should come as no surprise. In recent years, the justices have had a record number of “friends.” But in this, our fourth year analyzing the high court’s amicus docket for The National Law Journal, we did find a few surprises.