Amicus Curiae Briefs in Appellate Cases – A Friend of the Court

January 28th, 2021 - Bryan L. Page

Have you ever wanted to be a friend of the court? Well, you can. All it takes is filing an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”) brief in an appellate court case.

Appeals can often be high stakes. When a party appeals a trial court’s decision, it is often because the party thinks the case or the issues are important. Because decisions in appellate cases can be published and becoming binding precedent in future cases, cases on appeal can draw the interest from others who are not directly involved in the case as a party. For example, an individual, business, or organization may want to weigh in on an issue or case to be decided by an appellate court. They can do so by filing an amicus curiae brief.

Washington has a simple procedure for filing an amicus curiae brief. The person wishing to file an amicus curiae brief must first file a motion with the appellate court requesting permission to file its brief. The motion must include the following statements: (1) the person’s interest in the case; (2) the person’s familiarity with the issues and the argument presented by the parties in the case already; (3) the specific issues the person wants to discuss; and (4) the person’s reason why additional briefing will be helpful to the court. The person’s actual brief may also be filed with the motion. If the appellate court grants the motion, the amicus curiae brief will be considered.

Amicus briefs can offer value in a number of ways. They can offer the court a different, unique perspective on the issues that the parties to the case cannot. They can offer broader policy concerns at play. They can also opine on the practical implications of the court’s pending decision.

Amicus briefs are filed by all sorts of different interests including businesses, trade associations, unions, nonprofits, public interest groups, churches, groups of professors, and government entities. There are many reasons to file an amicus brief. The court’s decision could affect you, your business, or your organization (or its members). You can offer your expertise or a unique view to help the court decide an important issue. You can show your customers or members that an issue or cause is important to you and convey that importance to the court.

A thoughtful and well-done amicus brief can be very helpful to appellate courts considering weighty legal issues.

If you are aware of an important case pending before an appellate court in Washington in which you have an interest, you might consider whether to file an amicus brief. The lawyers at Carmichael Clark are experienced in appellate litigation in Washington and may be able to assist.

Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

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