17 Sep “Me Too” Law Professor Amicus Briefs
This past month I received an email sent to over 60 law professors inviting us to join an amicus brief. The case is before the D.C. Circuit and involves the important issue of corporate responsibility for human rights violations under international law. The email was sent at approximately midnight on a Monday night and invited a distinguished group of over 60 law professors to add their names to the brief. According to the email, no significant comments were welcome, and any law professor who wished to join the amicus brief had one business day–34 hours to be exact–to decide whether he or she wished to join the brief. I did not join because I do not believe in signing my name to a brief that I had no role in drafting.
Now to be clear, I do not have any objections to law professors filing amicus briefs. I have little doubt that law professor amicus briefs can assist the court in resolving complex legal issues that are within their professional expertise. Such briefs may be “friends of the court” in the best sense of the word. But the current fashion of “me too” law professor amicus briefs strikes me as counterproductive. I clerked on the D.C. Circuit over a dozen years ago and I don’t recall a single law professor amicus brief, much less any of the “me too” variety. What’s changed in the interim? Do other law professors in other disciplines do this? Are these briefs the product of human rights clinics where students do the yeoman’s work of writing the brief, but they feel they need the gravitas of distinguished names to give the brief heft?
Of course, no judge or law clerk believes that all those law professors who sign onto the amicus brief actually played a role in drafting it. Wouldn’t it be more productive to get a half-dozen big name law professors to sign the brief, to at least give the court the (false) impression that each helped draft the brief? I would suspect that there is an inverse relationship between the impact of the amicus brief and the number of law professors who sign their name to the brief. Obviously there are plenty of law professors whom I greatly respect who are willing to sign “me too” amicus briefs, so I must be missing something. I just don’t know what it is.