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The Amicus Curiae Brief: Its Increasing Role and Impact on Appellate Court Decisions

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Since the start of the twentieth century, the role of amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs has changed dramatically. At the start of the twentieth century, amicus briefs were filed in only about ten percent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s cases and were typically used to provide an impartial observer’s viewpoint on the case. Since then, there has been a steep rise in the filing of amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as a shift in the function of the briefs. Today, amicus briefs are commonplace and are increasingly influential on matters of public concern. Although most high‑profile amicus briefs continue to be filed with the Supreme Court, there is a significant opportunity for amicus impact on other federal appellate courts as well as state appellate courts, where amicus participation is less common.

Originally published in Appellate Issues, November 2017. Copyright 2017, American Bar Association

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