Amicus Briefs

The Center for Antiracist Research submits amicus briefs in a small number of cases each year, prioritizing cases where racism may be a central issue but is not a focus of the parties’ briefs.

Amicus briefs are brought by individuals or groups who are not parties to a legal case but have a strong interest in its outcome. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the Center and the vast expertise of its staff and affiliated scholars, we are well-situated to supply meaningful and effective amicus briefs that engage science, data, history, and law to demonstrate how racism manifests in U.S. society and how it can be mitigated. Our practice focuses on filing amicus briefs before the United States Supreme Court and state supreme courts.

If you know of a case that you think we should consider for our next amicus brief, please let us know by filling out this form.


Amicus Briefs

Commonwealth v. Mattis

In January of 2023, the Center partnered with the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University, the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, the NYU Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law, and the law firm Morgan Lewis to file an amicus brief before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the cases Commonwealth v. Mattis and Commonwealth v. Robinson. These cases raise the issue of whether the state’s constitutional ban on life without parole– or more accurately death-by-incarceration–sentences for children should be extended to 18-20-year-olds. Our brief analyzes data demonstrating extreme racial disproportionality in the imposition of death-by-incarceration sentences for older adolescents in particular, and examines the ways that systemic racism and implicit racial biases contribute to these disparities. We argue that these data illustrate arbitrariness in the imposition of death-by-incarceration sentences for 18 to 20-year-olds, such that these sentences violate the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. Moreover, the advances in developmental neuroscience and developmental psychology show that 18 to 20-year-olds are similar to younger teens in their impulsivity and susceptibility to peer influence, illustrating that the Supreme Judicial Court’s reasoning in banning death-by-incarceration sentences for children applies with equal force to older adolescents.

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State v. Aranda

In January of 2023, the Center partnered with the Coalition for Prior Conviction Impeachment Reform and the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic at Lewis and Clark law school to file an amicus brief in State v. Aranda, which involves a challenge to an evidentiary rule requiring a witness’s prior felony convictions to be disclosed in court—to a judge and jury—if that witness testifies. The rationale for this practice, known as prior conviction impeachment, is that prior convictions make a witness less credible; but that rationale is not supported by logic or empirical evidence. Moreover, prior conviction impeachment is rooted in policies that historically barred witnesses from testifying in United States courtrooms based on racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of bigotry. Today, these rules systematically silence witnesses with criminal records—who are disproportionately people of color, due to racism in policing and the criminal legal system—and impede the core courtroom function of factfinding by introducing evidence that is irrelevant and prejudicial. Oregon’s rule allowing for impeachment by prior convictions, Oregon Evidence Code 609, is more unjust than similar rules in most other states because it requires automatic admission of felony convictions, precluding trial courts from exercising their discretion to exclude prejudicial evidence. The Center joined this brief to emphasize that prior conviction impeachment—and Oregon’s rule in particular—is racist and violates principles of due process, fairness, justice, and equity.

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Tingley v. Ferguson

In November 2022, the Center joined an amicus brief in the case Tingley v. Ferguson, which involves a Washington state law that bans conversion therapy for minors. The challengers to the law argue, among other things, that the ban violates the First Amendment by restricting therapists’ professional speech and infringing on therapists’ religious practice. Our amicus brief addresses the long history of racist and bigoted efforts to use First Amendment claims to challenge anti-subordination laws. The brief emphasizes that there is no constitutional privilege to harm subordinated groups, and that states have legislative authority to protect against such harms. The brief also addresses the particular impacts that striking this law down would have on LGBTQ+ youth of color. The Center joined the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality; the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies; the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at New York University School of Law; and the Loyola Law school Anti-racism Center in submitting this brief.

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Moore v. Harper

In October 2022, the Center partnered with Professor Atiba R. Ellis, a nationally-recognized voting rights expert, and the law firm Brown Rudnick to file an amicus brief in Moore v. Harper, a voting rights case concerning the “Independent State Legislature Theory” (ISLT). Proponents of the ISLT argue that it gives state legislatures near-exclusive authority to regulate federal elections. If implemented, the ISLT would block state courts from fulfilling their important role in our government’s system of checks and balances. In this case, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down a partisan gerrymandered map for violating the state constitution, and the gerrymanderers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the North Carolina Supreme Court did not have the authority to do so under the ISLT. Our brief describes the potential racist impact of the ISLT and the important role courts have historically played in checking attempts to suppress and dilute the votes of Black people and other people of color in North Carolina.

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Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp. v. School Committee of City of Boston

In September 2022, the Center joined an amicus brief in Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp. v. School Committee of City of Boston, supporting the Boston’s School Committee’s plan to expand access to the city’s top-ranked “exam schools.” Challengers of the plan contended, among other things, that the Committee’s consideration of equity when developing the plan amounted to an equal protection violation—an argument based on the false premise that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits race consciousness, when in fact it prohibits racial discrimination. As this amicus brief illustrates, there is no question that a governmental body may consider the racial impact of its policies without triggering strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. The Center joined 15 other prominent local and national civil rights organizations in signing this brief, which was filed in the First Circuit Court of Appeals by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and Brown Rudnick, LLP.

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Thompson v. Clark

In June 2021, the Center filed an amicus brief in Thompson v. Clark, regarding a procedural loophole–the “indications-of-innocence” standard–which shielded police officers from accountability for pursuing false criminal charges when those charges were ultimately dismissed. Our brief addressed a long history of police pursuing false charges against Black and Latinx people, frequently to cover up officers’ excessive use of force. Under the “indications-of-innocence standard” a person could not seek redress for malicious prosecution under Section 1983 if the criminal charges against them resulted in a dismissal, as opposed to an acquittal or some other “affirmative indication of innocence.” This approach was nonsensical, since false and meritless charges ostensibly should result in dismissal. Moreover, this approach ignored the serious harms that come with being falsely charged, particularly for Black and Latinx people, even if the charges are later dropped. The U.S.  Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Mr. Thompson’s favor, rejecting the “indications of innocence” standard and holding that a person seeking federal civil rights redress for being falsely charged need only show that their prosecution “ended without a conviction.”

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