A recent article in the National Law Journal considered the impact of amicus briefs on the U.S. Supreme Court, attempting to discern how much influence amici have on the high court’s decisions.  As one might expect, amici weigh in on cases before the Supreme Court in significant numbers — the NLJ article found that, in the most recent term, an average of nine briefs were filed per case.  Interestingly, the NLJ article also suggested that, based upon the number of times an amicus brief is cited in a decision, “the Supreme Court is finding amicus briefs increasingly helpful.”

With the NLJ article’s findings in mind, the Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog has examined amicus filings for the Sixth Circuit, focusing on two periods for comparative purposes.  First, filings for the past year were examined, looking at the period from September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2011.  Then, for a 10-year comparison, the filings for the 2001 calendar year were examined.  This analysis was conducted through a combination of electronic searches and inspection of the Sixth Circuit’s dockets via PACER.

In 2001, a total of 75 amicus briefs were filed on behalf of 97 amici in 32 cases.  Of those 32 cases, the Court cited amicus briefs in only seven cases (21%) and made substantive use of amici arguments in a mere three cases (9%).  By comparison, in 2010-11, a total of 64 amicus briefs were filed on behalf of 156 amici in 38 cases.  And of those 38 cases, the Court cited amicus briefs in 15 cases (39%), making substantive use of amici arguments in three cases (8%).

These numbers suggest that the filing of amicus briefs is relatively rare in the Sixth Circuit.  While there is some indication that filings may have increased from 2001 to 2010-11, such growth is not significant and the absolute number of cases in which amicus briefs were filed annually in the Court – between 30 and 40 – remains rather small.  Amicus practice is clearly the exception and not the rule before the Court.  Tomorrow, this blog will examine some of the qualitative findings regarding amicus filings in the Sixth Circuit.