Actors in the Judicial Process

Interest Groups

While direct lobbying of the courts and judges violates legal ethics and impugns a court’s or judge’s impartiality and integrity, interest or pressure groups have been active before the courts since the founding, though their rates of participation certainly increased over the course of time. The excitement and grandeur of a test case like Brown v. Board of Ed (1954) or District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) often captures student imaginations, interest group activity is more commonly accomplished via the amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief. These briefs offer judges and justices a group’s or set of groups’ views on how the law should be interpreted and provide a bellwether on the salience of a case beyond the immediate parties. Our volume offers two scholarly examinations of this activity. First, Professor Laura P. Moyer along with Megan Balcom and Alyson Benton, an undergraduate and a graduate student scholar respectively, present an important examination of how interest group attempts to sway the Supreme Court adjust over time. Examining the amicus curiae briefs filed by antiabortion groups in three major decisions, Moyer et al are able to show how groups tailor their arguments to the justices and the temporal context. The article provides a brief history of the legal fight over abortion and also introduces students to the concept of frames.  Frames, as shown by this contribution, are a useful and replicable data gathering technique that students may find helpful as they pursue their own research questions. Professor Jenna Becker Kane moves us from the U.S. Supreme Court to the supreme courts of the states. Professor Kane examines what institutional factors spur or allow interest group activity, again via the amicus curiae brief, to flourish in some state high courts but not others. Using a dataset that covers forty years, Kane shows how interest groups target state supreme courts that for one reason or another are more able to assimilate the type of information offered, and thus shows that interest groups are careful with their resources and pursue legal advocacy where it is likely to have the intended effect.

Moyer, Laura P., Megan Balcom, and Alyson Hendricks-Benton. “Opposition to Abortion, Then and Now: How Amicus Briefs Use Policy Frames in Abortion Litigation.”

Kane, Jenna Becker. “Institutional Determinants of Amici Filings across State Supreme Courts.”


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