Amicus Curiae

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Amicus Curiae

Amicus CuriaeOrigins and Background

The amicus curiae is a legal term that finds its origins in Latin. Literally translated from Latin, it means “friend of the court” and refers to someone who has no relevance to any particular side in a case. Instead, they volunteer information regarding a point of law or something else relevant to the case that they feel may help the court in deciding a matter related to it. This information comes in different forms as well. One way is a legal opinion that is available as something known as a brief. It may also be a testimony that neither party solicited. It may also be through a discourse known as a treatise.

We find that amicus curiae finds its origins all the way back in Roman law. Around the 9th century, British law incorporated it which then had many other common law systems following suit. One of the more popular systems that use it is international law with many cases concerning human rights calling on amicus curiae. Its popularity continued to spread across the courts of many lands, next finding a place in many civil law systems. Today, it is most exercised by the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

Many people often confuse the role of amicus curiae with someone who intervenes. We often see it played out, especially in the press, when an advocacy group files a brief before a court where it is not a litigant, or member. This often happens in something known as an appellate court as well. This is where factual data and information from lower courts are argued. Many prominent cases see amicus curiae come from nonprofit groups that have a budget big enough to support a legal counsel such as the ACLU or NORML.

There is a set of specific rules and regulations when an amicus curiae may be used in a court proceeding. Often used in the Supreme Court, the law specifies that one can use a legal brief provided by an Americus curiae when it’s bringing attention to an issue that may be considered extremely helpful to the court itself and hasn’t yet been brought to light by either party. On the other hand, if it is felt that an amicus curiae brief doesn’t bring new and helpful information, it’s considered to be a burden to the court. Under those circumstances, it will not be used. Although the term amicus curiae can be confusing to many, especially due to its Latin nature, it’s important to understand its role in our legal proceedings.