Amicus briefs filed by the right help shape the Supreme Court docket

Private groups and advocacy organizations that most frequently urge the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case are overwhelmingly pro-business, anti-regulatory, and ideologically conservative.

That’s the finding of Adam Chandler at Scotusblog, who reviewed amicus briefs filed with the court between May 2009 and August 2012.

Here’s the list of the top sixteen filers:

And as research shows, the concerted activity by those organizations is in fact helping to shape the Supreme Court docket, Chandler said:

The influence of a cert.-stage amicus brief should not be overestimated from the success percentages of the top sixteen groups, because at least some of the petitions they supported would have been granted regardless. But, new research has reinforced earlier findings about the independent influence of cert.-stage amicus briefs in the Justices’ decision making. The briefs matter, a lesson that more organizations appear to learn each year.

Progressive and liberal organizations, on the other hand, are virtually “nowhere to be found,” Chandler added.

Five years ago, I noted that the ACLU had filed only two cert.-stage amicus briefs; five years later, it failed even to match that tally. When I talked to the ACLU’s legal director, he told me that the ACLU had made an “organizational decision not to file cert.-stage amicus briefs, except in extraordinary circumstances,” a strategy that does not appear to have changed. (He said it was simply about allocating resources and not about keeping a low profile on issues that might not fare well before the Roberts Court.)

A few liberal groups are climbing up the ranks, he added —  the Innocence Network and the Constitutional Accountability Center, for example — but right alongside them are conservative counterweights like the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Rights Union.

“My data indicate that, as the Court shapes its docket, it hears conservative voices far more often than liberal ones, and the disparity is growing,” Chandler said.








One Comment

  1. James Protzman

    April 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Doesn’t bode well for the future. Progressives need to battle on all fronts, and activism in legal circles is more important than ever. That’s why I contribute to the ACLU and SELC … and any other organization that is primarily in the business of using the power of the law.

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