Friends of the Court: The Presidency, Congress, and Political Participation in the Judicial Process

As a Constitutional enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the power dynamic that defines the relationship between institutionally separate branches of government. Through my formal education I learned of the logic behind such idioms as “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.” However, it was through my experience working in all three branches of government that allowed me to see this interplay between institutions as the dynamic, complex, often convoluted relationship that it is. Separate in some instances, but very much entangled in others, the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court interact in a number of ways that have bearing on the political culture of the United States.

A lesser-known example of this entanglement, and one on which I have chosen to focus my research is role of the amicus participation by members of Congress and the Solicitor General in the United States Supreme Court. Through the age-old practice of filing briefs on behalf of parties to the case as amicus curiae, or “friends of the Court,” voices of Congress and the Presidency manifest themselves in the independent judiciary.

My research will study how influential these voices are, under what conditions they are exercised, and how their prevalence and influence has changed over time. Using quantitative analysis, I seek to measure the extent to which members of Congress and the presidentially appointed Solicitor General see success in amicus filing. It is my anticipation that this research will yield a more complete understanding of the formal channels through which the Presidency and Congress interact with the politically isolated Supreme Court, and exercise power beyond their formal dictates. I expect that my internships in the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the Office of the Solicitor General will inform this research.

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