Latin for ‘friend of the court,’ an amicus curia (plural: curiae) is a person or entity who provides the court with information or facts concerning a matter. They have no interest in the lawsuit’s outcome and can be a participant without taking any sides.
Amicus Curiae Details
Amicus curiae usually have strong views about a matter in court. Such persons typically seek the permission of the court to file a brief in the said matter. While amicus curiae may not have a personal interest in the matter, they may be allowed to file a brief to express their views on the matter.
Most amicus curiae become interested or involved when the matter is of public interest, such as capital punishment or same-sex marriages. If an amicus curia is an individual, they need the consent of both parties and permission from the court to file their brief. Governments taking the role of amicus curiae do not require consent from any parties or the court to file their brief.
An amicus curia does not necessarily have to be an attorney, neither are their services paid for. However, they must have some knowledge and perspective in the matter that they seek to provide their views. It’s important to note that amicus curiae have no right to their opinions being heard or considered in a court of law; it is a privilege that the court can waive at any time.
Real-World Example of Amicus Curiae
One of the most popular amicus curiae briefs ever filed was in a civil rights case: same-sex marriages. In the matter of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the US Supreme Court received a historical number of 148 amicus curiae briefs regarding this matter. According to legaldictionary.net, this is the highest number of briefs ever received for an issue in court.
Out of these 148 amicus curiae briefs, one was put together by a total of 380 businesses coming together. They put their views forward about why ruling in favor of same-sex marriages would be good for businesses in America.
The Supreme Court of America ruled in favor of same-sex marriages all across the country. Every state was mandated to recognize same-sex marriages as legal from this ruling. This goes to show the power and influence that amicus curiae can wield over matters such as these.
Significance of Amicus Curiae
Amicus curiae play a very significant role in the law and determining matters in court. We cannot ignore their involvement in the law, and these are just a few of the ways that they have proved to be invaluable.
- Some facts may never be brought up in court by both the defendant or the plaintiff if it is of no interest. Amicus curiae usually find such information and present them to the court.
- Amicus curiae may offer relevant advice to the judge to help in reducing the risk of error in judgment.
- The judge may appoint amicus curiae to act for each of the parties as non-partisan and independent counsel.
- In highly technical areas of law or complex regimes, the amicus curiae role is very critical and helpful.
History of Amicus Curiae
Amicus curiae originated in Roman law and were incorporated into English law sometime at the beginning of the 9th century. From there, it turned into law systems and international. It is particularly prevalent in human rights laws.
Today, amicus curiae are widely used and accepted across several courts and nations in the world. International human rights courts, such as the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the International Criminal Court, have widely used the role.
Amicus Curiae Vs. Intervenor
We often use the terms “amicus curiae” and “intervenor” interchangeably. However, this is not right as these two legal terms and persons are quite different in their definition and application. Amicus curiae, as earlier defined, are persons or entities such as governments who provide information and facts about a matter in court.
Amicus curiae are not vested in the outcome of a matter; they give their opinion and await the court’s verdict. On the other hand, intervenors are legal entities who could be lawyers or organizations whose interests will be affected by the ruling on a matter. Intervenors, therefore, participate in a case to influence the ruling in their favor.
Unlike amicus curiae, intervenors can file a motion and may be liable to fees and costs of attorneys. Intervenors also have the right to appeal a ruling on a matter while amicus curiae do not. Intervenors are also bound or are party to a case, while amicus curiae present their views and await the verdict without taking sides.