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Amicus Curiae Briefs: 3rd Circuit Has Liberal Standards

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Are you thinking of filing an amicus brief in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals?

In an article in their newsletter, the Third Circuit Bar Association provides some insight into the court's policy on submitting amicus curiae briefs and who may submit an amicus curiae brief to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

For the uninitiated: Amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," is essentially a type of participation in a legal proceeding whereby outside groups and individuals seek to influence the litigation.

TheFlorida State University Law Journal explains the idea behind amicus briefs, stating that amicus filers are typically not party-litigants to a case but rather, third parties. As such, judges tend to have broad discretion in rejecting the briefs if the judges do not believe that the amicus participation adds anything to the briefs already filed by the party-litigants.

The 3rd Circuit newsletter discusses a case that came out nine years ago, Neonatology Associates, P.A. v. Commissioner. In this case, Justice Samuel Alito, prior to his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, essentially set the standards for deciding whether to grant leave to file an amicus brief.

Neonatology Associates, as discussed in the FSU Law Journal, was an appeal from a tax court decision. In the original case, physicians wanted to file amicus brief in support of the IRS. The taxpayers were two professional medical corporations who were being chased for back-taxes and erroneous deductions.

The taxpayers opposed the submission of the amicus brief, claiming in their opposition that the doctors were not "impartial."

The doctors, on the other hand, claimed that the brief should be filed because they wanted to preserve certain factual findings and question the application of the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA) to the case.

Then-Judge Alito thus applied a broad standard for allowing amicus curiae briefs and allowed the doctors to submit their brief.

He considered the role of amicus briefs from a historical perspective, the usefulness of amicus briefs to the court. As such, he rejected the narrower analysis requiring an amicus to demonstrate impartiality, a lack of financial interest in the outcome of the case and that the party supported by the brief is inadequately represented.

In his decision, Judge Alito said that leave to file amicus briefs should be granted "unless it is obvious that the proposed briefs do not meet Rule 29's criteria as broadly interpreted."

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