U.S. Supreme Court

Some SCOTUS amicus briefs cite unsupported 'facts' and studies published only on the Internet


U.S. Supreme Court opinions are increasingly citing facts presented in amicus briefs.

But some of those so-called facts are supported only by blog posts and emails, and some have no support at all, the New York Times reports in a Sidebar column.

Some of the studies cited in amicus briefs are also suspect, the story says. Some are undertaken in an apparent effort to influence the court. Some were done by the group submitting the brief and some were published only on the Internet.

Even the name of the group submitting the brief can be obscure, according to College of William and Mary law professor Allison Orr Larsen, who has concerns about the court’s increasing reliance on amicus briefs for factual assertions. One brief, for example, was submitted by the American College of Pediatrics, a group founded to oppose adoption by gay couples. Its name sounds similar to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which takes a contrary position.

Larsen wrote about her concerns in an article slated for publication in the Virginia Law Review. “The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,” Larsen said. “And the justices are listening.”

From the 2008 term to the 2013 term, court decisions cited facts from amicus briefs 124 times, Larsen says.

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