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Legal Terms

To understand what an Amicus brief is, one must first define a “brief.” A brief is a legal document submitted to a Court in connection with a legal case that particular Court is presiding over or, in other words, has accepted jurisdiction to resolve the dispute. Most briefs are submitted by litigants interested in the outcome of a case (i.e., parties to a case) in hopes of persuading the Court to agree with their point of view. Generally, briefs address specific issues raised by either party at various times during the lifetime of a court case. Briefs lay out facts considered relevant to the issue(s) that a party raises; they provide the Court with law that is “on point,” and most importantly, briefs include legal arguments applying the pertinent law to the specific facts to draw a conclusion that favors a certain outcome.

An Amicus brief is a special type of brief that are submitted to Appellate Courts, upon permission by the Court, by non-parties. Amicus is short for Amicus Curiae. Amicus Curiae is Latin for “friend of the Court.” In other words, this type of brief is filed for the purpose of offering the Court information, insight, and rationale in connection with an appeal that is presently in front of the Court. Generally, Amicus briefs are not viewpoint-neutral, but rather they are filed in support of one party’s position.

Simply put, a Petition for Writ of Certiorari is a request that an Appellate Court review a lower Court’s decision. This type of Petition is filed by litigants, identified as “Petitioner,” who are dissatisfied (i.e., aggrieved) with an outcome and seek appellate review. In legalese, if an Appellate Court grants a litigant’s request for appellate review of a lower Court’s decision, it means the Appellate Court “issues a writ.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. There are 13 appellate courts that sit below it, and they are called the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Click here to view a graphic depiction of the Supreme Court and Circuit Court system in America.

Legal terms and their definitions are complex, yet must be understood in the right context to decipher the content of a legal filing. Click here to search for a legal term and its definition.

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