Understanding Court Processes

Amicus Curiae Proceedings

According to the black’s law dictionary 10thedition, amicus curiae means literally a friend of the court. A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action, may petition to the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views.

In summary therefore, an amicus curiae is basically a person who is not a party to a case and may not have been solicited by a party and who assists a court by offering information, expertise or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case.

Amicus curiae briefs are commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of a broad public interest. S. 98 of the civil procedure Actgives court inherent powers to make orders which are necessary for the ends of justice or to avoid abuse of court processes. It is under this law that the court is given power to allow an application in regard to amicus curiae.  Order 50 of the civil procedure rules gives the court officers general power to carry out duties pertaining to it. The mode of making such an application is by way of notice of motion supported by an affidavit.

The current jurisprudence in Uganda has set out a number of principles governing the admission of amicus curiae which include the following.

  1. Participation of amici is purely at the discretion of the court.
  2. Amicus curiae is relevant where court is of the opinion that the matter before it requires some kind of expertise which is in the possession of a specific individual.
  3. The ultimate control over what the amicus can do lies exclusively with the court.
  4. The amicus must be neutral and impartial.
  5. The submissions must be intended to give assistance to the court.
  6. The amicus must be limited to engagement with matters of law.
  7. The submissions should draw attention to relevant matters of the law, useful, focused and principled legal submissions not favoring any of the parties.
  8. The amici must have valuable expertise in the relevant area of the law and general expertise in the law does not suffice.
  9. The points of law to be discussed should be relevant to the development of jurisprudence.
  10. The participation must be in the wider interest of public justice.
  11. The amicus should address court on points of law not raised by the parties but on that which is of concern to the court.
  12. The amicus has a duty to remind court of legal matters which have escaped the court that may cause a wrong interpretation of the law.
  13. An amicus shall not introduce new/ fresh evidence.
  14. The court has the duty to regulate the extent of amicus participation in the proceedings.

Recently in Uganda, amicus curiae were admitted in a case of wide public interest concerning the presidential election petition in 2016 professor Oloka Onyango & 8 others (Civil Application No 02 of 2016) to wit the courts applied the above principles in admitting them as amicus curiae.