Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Amicus Curiae Definition:

Latin: friend of the court.

A person, lawyer or not, asking for permission to speak to the Court in a case in which they are neither plaintiff or defendant, usually to point out a notorious fact not known to the Court (such as the sudden death of a party) or a point of law or recent change in the law or a law case on point not apparently known to the Court.

From Re Pehlke, a bankruptcy case:

"The words amicus curiae mean friend of the court; and the term is applied to one who suggests something for the information of the court....

"The term is generally applied to a solicitor of the court who, being present, makes some suggestion to the court in regard to the matter before it and it is more rarely applied to counsel arguing the case.

"Also the term is used of persons who have no right to appear in a suit but are allowed to protect their own interest, and finally to a stranger who, being in court, calls the court's attention to some error in the proceedings....

"The practice ought to be confined to cases of the sort above mentioned and in the case where counsel simply comes and presents a point more or less roughly the practice should be discouraged."

In R v Lee, the Northwest Territories Court said:

"There are traditionally three situations in which the court appoints an amicus: (a) where there is a matter of public interest in which the court invites the Attorney-General or some other capable individual to intervene; (b) to prevent an injustice, for example, to make submissions on points of law that may have been overlooked; and (c) to represent the unrepresented.

"Generally, an amicus curiae is a barrister who assists the court, at the court's request, and is disinterested."

The term amicus curiae can be distinguished from an intervenor, the latter having an interest in the proceedings (an advocate), the former being disinterested; merely a friend of the Court.

REFERENCES

  • Re Pehlke (1939) 4 DLR 725
  • R v Lee (1998) 125 CCC 3d 363

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