Amicus curiae: Lange v the ABA

PIAC makes amicus curiae
submissions in cases that feature a strong public interest issue.

Amicus curiae
literally translates as ‘friend of the court’.

An amicus curiae is
not a party to a proceeding but usually has a strong connection to an important
issue raised by the case at hand.

An amicus curiae
brief can be a good way to bring public interest perspectives to the attention
of a court, especially where litigation has implications beyond the interests
of the parties involved.   

The amicus curiae is
required to seek leave from the presiding judge to make submissions on aspects of a matter that
are otherwise unlikely to receive full or adequate treatment by the parties.

In some
cases, it may be in the interests of the administration of justice that the Court
has the benefit of a larger view of the matter than the parties are able or
willing to offer.

However, an
amicus has no right to file pleadings, lead evidence, examine witnesses or to
appeal. An amicus is not normally subject to costs orders.

In 1996, PIAC submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA)
to oppose the National Australia Bank, which was arguing that the NSW Court of
Appeal should overturn a long-standing banking law that causes a bank to bear
loss when a forged cheque is paid without a customer’s authority. 

PIAC was successful in arguing that this would pose a major
disadvantage to consumers who were illiterate, intellectually disabled, or had
difficulty understanding banking practices. 

In 1997, PIAC took on two major cases – Lange v Australian Broadcasting
 and Levy v State of Victoria. In Lange,
PIAC submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Media Entertainment &
Arts Alliance (MEAA). The High Court affirmed the existence of the implied
right in the Australian Constitution of freedom of political communication –
something that is fundamental to protect our system of representative

In the case of APLA v NSW Legal Services
Commissioner & the State of NSW
 [2005] HCA
44, PIAC represented a group of community legal centres who were concerned
about the unintended consequences of legislation designed to limit plaintiff
lawyers from advertising their services.

PIAC’s amicus submission
to the High Court concerned the scope of the constitutional protection for
freedom of political speech. While the decision ultimately did not advance this
protection any further, PIAC was able to put these arguments squarely before
the Court in a way that would not have occurred were it not for this

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