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Consolidation of Supreme Court Bar Generates More Amicus Briefs

The re-emergence of an elite Supreme Court bar has had widespread implications.  As I discussed in this post, the consolidation of Supreme Court practices within a limited number of large law firms has contributed to the under-representation of minority lawyers before the high court.  And there's another effect as well -- as this article from the ABA Journal (November 2007) describes, the Court has seen an increase in the number of amicus briefs filed by lawyers avid for a chance to participate in a Supreme Court case in any way possible.  In 2004, 258 amicus briefs were filed, compared to 353 in 2005 and 333 in 2006.  Given that the court has issued fewer than 80 decisions in the past few years, eighty additional amicus briefs is significant.  As former Stanford law dean Katherine Sullivan, quoted in the article, explains:

With the shrinking docket, there are too many Supreme Court lawyers chasing too few cases on the merits. [...] So, many of us who have strong interests in the cases find ways to contribute by filing amicus briefs.

So desperate are firms to build Supreme Court credentials that many will prepare amicus briefs on a pro bono basis, or offer flat fees or alternative billing.  And that's a good thing, because the value of an amicus brief to a client (rather than the client's lawyers) is questionable.   According to this article by Tony Mauro from April 2005, the Supreme Court justices don't favor amicus briefs.  And often, a large number of amicus briefs can be more of a burden, rather than a benefit to the Court. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 31, 2007 at 05:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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