Amici and the Courts: A Case Study of the Research Use Process of Intermediary Actors

How do changes in social networks and available evidence affect the acquisition, interpretation, and use of research evidence when developing amicus curiae briefs

Amici—friends of the court—serve as important intermediaries in the court system and frequently use research when developing briefs. The investigators were initially funded to examine the ways in which research is used by amici in the Fisher v. University of Texas a legal case focused on affirmative action in higher education. This supplement adds a longitudinal component to the study and capitalizes on the Supreme Court’s decision to remand the Fisher case to the 5th Circuit and then hear the case again. Findings from the current study reveal that amici (intermediaries) increasingly cite social science research in their legal briefs. These references were often quantitative and not specific to the local context. In the coming year, the team will collect the new amicus briefs submitted in Fisher II, identify all of the research evidence cited in these briefs, and, again, code characteristics of the evidence. The modest additional investment to collect and code data on Fisher II will enable the team to examine if amici use research evidence in similar ways or adopt new strategies in their attempts to strengthen their legal arguments to the Supreme Court. The team will also examine any shifts in the roles of researchers in the brief preparation process and in the amici’s social networks. In doing so, they hope to learn whether shifts in social networks lead to the use of different types of research in Fisher I and Fisher II.