Various news and entertainment outlets have questioned the usefulness of friend-of-the-court briefs (also known as amicus briefs) at the Supreme Court. Both the New York Times and the Colbert Report recently endorsed a law professor’s article questioning the validity of facts in those briefs. Both imply that amicus briefs should not be taken seriously by the Court. That assertion is wrong.
As the Court itself notes, the right type of amicus brief–one that brings a unique perspective–may be of “considerable help to the Court.” Pacific Legal Foundation’s briefs do just that. In Knox v. Service Employees International Union, for example, PLF was the only one arguing that a union imposing special dues may not obtain funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent. The Court adopted our argument.
In Fisher v. University of Texas, PLF argued that Grutter v. Bollinger, which allows university to treat applicants differently on the basis of race, should be overruled. Instead of relying on dubious facts, we argued that there was no social sciences exception to the Equal Protection Clause. That brief, described as the most persuasive brief in the case, is yet another example of why PLF is one of the most successful organizations in the Supreme Court. Everyone needs a good friend.