The Influence of Interest Groups as Amicus Curiae on Justice Votes in the U.S. Supreme Court

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Virginia Tech

Amicus curiae participation by interest groups has greatly increased over the past few decades in the Supreme Court despite a limited understanding of their influence. Previous literature has suggested that at the U.S. Supreme Court level, interest groups as amici are no more likely to get justices votes in a liberal or conservative direction than when no amicus brief is provided. Some literature, however, suggests that there are certain types of cases in which amicus briefs may be influential, such as in constitutional, statutory, and civil rights cases. By conducting several comparisons of means tests for the number of justice votes in a certain ideological direction with and without an amicus brief, this study investigates the influence of briefs on justice votes in civil rights and economic cases. The findings support the previous literature that suggests briefs are no more likely to be related to an increased number of votes in the direction of the brief, but finds that civil rights cases may be positively affected by amicus briefs while economic cases are negatively affected. This thesis concludes by explaining that the content of the briefs submitted should change in order to be more effective in influencing justices or that interest groups should use their efforts in other avenues to impact policy.

amicus curiae, interest group, U.S. Supreme Court, civil rights, economics