Legal Reading Group on International Law Scholars as Amici Curiae

PhD candidate Sondre Torp Helmersen will discuss Avidan Kent's and Jamie Trinidad's ‘International Law Scholars as Amici Curiae: An Emerging Dialogue (of the Deaf)?’, Leiden Journal of International Law (2016).


International law scholars frequently seek to participate in international legal proceedings as amici curiae. Often they do so by ‘piggy-backing’ onto the submissions of NGOs and other advocacygroups.Occasionally–butincreasinglyinrecentyears–theydosointheirownnames, purporting to offer ‘pure’ academic expertise, and generating certain expectations of scholarly neutrality. This article focuses on the latter trend, which the authors argue has the potential to re-shape the scholar-adjudicator dialogue in interesting ways.

Under the traditional approach towards ‘teachings’, the decision of whether, how and with whom to engage is firmly in the hands of the adjudicators. The proliferation of academic amicus briefs threatens to disrupt this arrangement. It also brings certain benefits: the briefs are often more ‘on point’ than doctrinal writings, while openness to unsolicited academic submissions encourages plurality andreduces relianceonreputation as ameasureof scholarly quality.

Our survey of the emerging practice across various international courts and tribunals indicates that adjudicators tend to be reticent when it comes to the reception of unsolicited academic amicus briefs, however, we identify several instances of productive engagement. This leads us to conclude that it would be unduly gloomy to characterize the emerging practice as a ‘dialogue of the deaf’. A fairer assessment would be that the academic amicus trend is bringing about a modest adjustment in the way that international law scholars and adjudicators engage with each other.


The legal reading group meets on a regular basis to discuss leading publications on international courts and tribunals. The aim is to develop our understanding of an article/book chapter and how it might be relevant for our own projects, through sharing insights on its substance, merits, and broader context. The reading group managed by PluriCourts, but open to everyone that is interested.

Tags: authority
Published Sep. 27, 2017 11:19 AM - Last modified July 29, 2018 9:35 PM