The decisions of appellate courts often establish precedent that will have ramifications that extend far beyond the immediate parties to an appeal. For example, an appellate case may decide whether certain relationships create a duty, or whether certain conduct creates potential liability, or what procedures a regulated entity must satisfy before challenging agency action in the courts. Of course, every appellate decision affects the parties to the appeal. But these decisions also affect similarly situated individuals or entities that are not parties to the appeal. For that reason, individuals or organizations who are not direct parties to an appeal may wish to share their perspectives with the appellate court. They do so through amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, briefs. These briefs provide important information or arguments that can help the courts to better understand the issues involved, and they can significantly affect judicial decision-making.
The Georgia Supreme Court has amended its rules, and some of these amendments will affect the timing of the filing of amicus curiae briefs. The current rules do not impose any filing deadline for amicus curiae briefs, allowing these briefs to be filed after the close of all briefing. However, for cases docketed in the Georgia Supreme Court after December 2, 2019, Rule 23 will impose a new filing deadline for amicus curiae briefs. This deadline will depend on whether the brief supports the appellant, the appellee, or neither party. Revised Rule 23 will allow amicus curiae briefs in support of any party to “be filed without leave of the Court within 10 days after that party’s initial brief, petition, or application is due.” Rule 23(1). An appellant’s initial brief is due “within 20 days after the appeal is docketed” (Rule 10(1)), so an amicus curiae brief in support of an appellant would be due 10 days after that (within 30 days after the appeal is docketed). “Amicus curiae briefs filed in support of neither party may be filed without leave of the Court within 10 days after the response or reply brief is due.” Rule 23(2). Filing of amicus briefs after these deadlines will be allowed only by leave of the Court. Rule 23(3).
These deadlines represent a significant change from the current Rule 23 and may require individuals or entities interested in filing an amicus curiae brief to get involved earlier in the appellate process (especially if they are supporting the appellant’s position). These new deadlines will become effective for cases docketed on or after December 2, 2019.