Amicus Briefs — Why File Them?

My colleagues at Mayer Brown LLP have come out with a superb treatise on Federal Appellate Practice. Naturally, I’m biased in this evaluation; but I think it’s broadly agreed that Mayer’s appellate practice is at least one of the very top in the nation, and they have a lot of experience to pass on. Judge Alex Kozinski agrees in his blurb for the book, calling it “a guide that every appellate lawyer should read — and that every client should expect to see on his lawyer’s shelf.”

I thought it would be worthwhile to blog some excerpts from the treatise this week, chiefly about amicus briefs and about oral arguments. These aren’t necessarily the most important parts of federal appellate practice, but I have to admit that many important parts are not necessarily the most exciting to read about, unless you actually need them for a brief you’re working on. So I tried to compromise by finding something generally interesting yet still relatively useful.

Today, I start with a question that has sometimes arisen in discussions here: Why should anyone file an amicus brief, and how should people decide whether to spend their time and money doing it? Here’s the discussion, from chapter 12.2 of Federal Appellate Practice (some paragraph breaks added):

There are many different types of amicus briefs that persons or organizations want to submit to a court of appeals. An amicus sometimes wants to file a brief because it lacks confidence in the party