About Amicus Curiae at the European Court of Justice
This platform – Amicus Curiae @ the European Court of Justice – is a not for profit European citizen’s initiative to offer the European Court of Justice (ECJ) an opportunity to benefit from relevant matter that third parties could bring to its attention in cases pending before it. On this platform, you can, as ‘Friend of the Court’ (aka Amicus Curiae), share your knowledge, perspective or interests or otherwise help the ECJ reach a well informed decision.
The European Court of Justice (currently named Court of Justice of the European Union) is the judicial authority of the European Union. It decides cases that concern not only the parties involved, but every citizen of the European Union. Moreover, its decisions deal with complex and fundamental issues, such as the patentability of human embryo’s, the legality of monetary policy decisions by the European Central Bank and the privacy of European Facebook users.
A sound adjudication of such complex and/or high impact cases requires the Court to consider all pertinent knowledge and perspectives, to balance all interests at stake and to make a well informed assessment of the implications – economic, societal, ethical, environmental etc. – of its decision for third parties and society at large. That raises the question of how the Court can be informed about the knowledge, the interests and the implications that are relevant for its decision?
Under the Court’s Statute and Rules of Procedure, both the Member Sates and the European Commission, have the possibility to submit their written observations on a case pending before the Court. Affected third parties or the public, however, do not have this possibility; there is no procedural avenue for them to inform the Court of their knowledge, perspectives, or interests in the case at hand or to demonstrate how its decision will affect them or society. This ‘input deficit’ is notable, given that various courts around the world, including the Supreme Court of the United States, do invite third party or public input, in the form of Amicus Curiae Briefs. As the US Supreme Court put it:
‘An amicus curiae brief that brings to the attention of the court relevant matter not already brought to its attention by the parties may be of considerable help to the Court’ (US Supreme Court Rule 37).
Goal and role of the Amicus Curiae
The ultimate goal of the Amicus Curiae, which dates back to Roman law, is to contribute to the quality and legitimacy of the administration of justice. To that end, an Amicus could fulfill two roles:
As an independent expert. Being an Amicus is not a lawyer’s privilege, but is open to experts in any discipline which is of relevance to the case at hand. To be sure, legal experts can inform the court about specialist laws, the laws in Member States or the laws in other jurisdictions (comparative law analysis). However, non legal experts can submit scientific evidence, which could confirm or falsify any assumptions on which the court is to base its verdict. This kind of “non-legal” Amicus Curiae briefs are known in American case law as ‘Brandeis briefs’. In the seminal segregation case of ‘Brown v. the Board of Education’, for example, the US Supreme Court cited a number of social science studies which challenged the assumption that “separate was equal”.
As a special interest advocate. An Amicus Curiae can also act as the advocate of a public or private interest or the opinions or beliefs held by third parties who are not a party in the case but who will be impacted by the verdict of the court as a result of its precedent setting effect. By bringing these interests and opinions to the attention of the court, the Amicus can contribute to the legitimacy of the decision. Relevant interest and opinions could include interests of private individuals, a specific business, branche or sector, the economic interests of specific groups (consumers, patients, employers, retirees), societal, cultural and religious opinions, the interests of Non Governmental Organisations and the interests of State agencies, municipalities and foreign (non EU) governments.
Call to Action
To help the European Court of Justice reach the best informed decision, we set up this platform on which you, as Friend of the Court, can share with the Court your knowledge, perspective or interests in a particular case or demonstrate its implications for third parties or society at large, in the form of an Amicus Curiae Brief. You can find a list of requests for a preliminary ruling currently pending before the Court here, with the possibility to leave your brief.
The Founders and Editors of the Foundation Amicus Curiae:
Jasper Adriaan Bovenberg & Erik Jan Spaans
The Foundation Amicus Curiae is a not-for profit, citizen’s initiative foundation which offers the Court of Justice of the European Union a platform to be informed by and benefit from relevant matter that third parties bring to its attention in the form of Amicus Curiae briefs. The foundation is registered with the Foundation Registry of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce under registration number: 61390550.