Amicus Curiae Brief Application Process

The AAUP files amicus briefs in cases involving academic freedom, tenure, discrimination, affirmative action, sexual harassment, and intellectual property issues, among other areas, in accord with the Association’s principles and litigation priorities. The AAUP’s amicus priorities are cases that pose direct and significant threats to the rights of faculty members and/or the core principles safeguarded by AAUP policies, and in which the AAUP has a unique perspective to offer. The AAUP generally files amicus briefs only in appellate or supreme courts at the state or federal level.

The AAUP sometimes takes primary responsibility for drafting and submitting an amicus brief; other times, the AAUP signs onto a “coalition” brief that has been drafted primarily by another organization but implicates an important interest of the AAUP.

The first category of briefs generally relate squarely to faculty issues in higher education—for instance, tenure, academic freedom, economic security for faculty members, the collective bargaining rights of faculty, or discrimination or affirmative action involving faculty members. Examples of such cases are: McAdams v. Marquette University, 383 Wisc. 2d 358, 914 N.W.2d 708 (2018), in which the Wisconsin Supreme Court, citing AAUP policies and an amicus brief filed by the AAUP, ruled that Marquette University wrongly disciplined John McAdams for comments he made on his personal blog in 2014; The American Tradition Institute v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia & Michael Mann, 287 Va. 330 (Va. April 17, 2014), in which the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a professor’s climate research records were exempt from disclosure as academic research records, as the AAUP argued in an amicus brief submitted to the court; Freyd v. University of Oregon, No. 19-35428 (9th Cir. 2019)(appeal filed), in which the AAUP filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Jennifer Freyd, who sued the University of Oregon (UO) for pay discrimination based on significant pay disparities with male faculty members; and Columbia University, 364 NLRB No. 90 (August 23, 2016), in which the National Labor Relations Board, echoing arguments made by the AAUP in an amicus brief, held that student assistants working at private colleges and universities are statutory employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

The second category of briefs are generally filed in cases that could have a significant impact on faculty but do not squarely implicate the AAUP policies or core principles or in which the AAUP does not have a unique perspective to offer. Examples of these cases are Trump v. Int'l Refugee Assistance Project, 137 S. Ct. 2080, 198 L. Ed. 2d 643 (June 26, 2017) (No. 16-1436)(granting cert and granting stay in part), 138 S. Ct. 353, 199 L. Ed. 2d 203, (Oct. 10, 2017)(Vacating judgement as moot), in which the AAUP joined with the American Council on Education and other higher education groups in an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court opposing the Trump administration’s executive order instituting a travel ban; Fisher v. University of Texas, 136 S. Ct. 2198 (2016), in which  the AAUP joined an amicus brief and the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action admissions program; and Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S.Ct. 1731 (2020),   in which the AAUP joined an amicus brief and the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin, protects gay and transgender workers.

In short, the AAUP stands watch for cases that relate to higher education at their core as well as those that may, if decided badly now, have damaging consequences for faculty later. Our amicus briefs help to increase the influence of our members, safeguard important constitutional and contractual rights, and ultimately contribute to an academic environment that allows all faculty members to flourish.

In order to request amicus curiae brief assistance from the AAUP’s legal office, please submit your request in writing to the AAUP Legal Department by email to [email protected] or by mail to:

ATTN: Legal Department
555 New Jersey Ave NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20001

Your request should include the following:

  1. A summary of the legal issues involved in your case, the status of any legal proceedings currently in progress, and the court’s deadline for submission of amicus briefs
  2. Names of all parties to the litigation, including the name and location of the university or college involved in the dispute. Please identify whether you are a party to the case and, if so, provide the name and contact information for any attorney representing you.
  3. The name and jurisdiction of the court where the case is pending.
  4. The case identification number assigned to your case by the court of jurisdiction.
  5. Copies of any orders or judgments or other dispositive rulings that are the subject of the proposed amicus brief.
  6. Copies of any news coverage regarding your case
  7. Copies of any of the following documents that you believe may be helpful or important for our consideration of your request.*
    1. Legal pleadings such as the original complaint and any subsequent amended complaints; answer to the complaint and any subsequent amended complaint, and motions for dismissal or summary judgment and supporting memoranda of law or legal briefs related to those motions.
    2. Copies of any other relevant and pertinent documents, such as contracts and correspondence from your institution.

*When sending documents, please send copies only; we cannot return originals.

 The AAUP Legal Office will strive to review your request in a timely manner, but please allow a minimum of thirty days for us to evaluate your request for assistance.     

 For further information concerning amicus briefs the AAUP has filed, please see our case summaries