TitleCommunicating to the courts and beyond: Why members of Congress participate as amici curiae
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsSolberg, R, Heberlig, E
JournalSAGE Public Administration Abstracts
Date Published2005
ISBN Number0094-6958

Members of Congress engage in discretionary behaviors, such as making speeches and cosponsoring bills, which are generally motivated by either electoral needs or policy preferences. We examine a discretionary behavior that engages the judicial branch in the conversation: the participation of members of Congress as amici curiae before the Supreme Court. Amicus curiae briefs provide members of Congress with a direct avenue of communication with the judiciary, and this characteristic suggests that cosigning would be a method of creating good public policy. Using data from the 1980-1997 terms of the Supreme Court, however, we find that members of Congress cosign onto amicus curiae briefs as a means of "taking stances," akin to cosponsoring a bill. The action allows the member to speak indirectly to an audience beyond these governmental institutions. Evidence shows that ideological extremism and committee jurisdiction promote participation as amicus curiae.