Appellate Section Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of the Appellate Section?

When does the Civil Rights Division participate as amicus curiae in the courts of appeals?

When does the Civil Rights Division intervene in private litigation in the courts of appeals?

How does the Division decide whether to participate in a case as amicus curiae or to intervene in private litigation?

What about amicus participation in the Supreme Court?

What should I do if I want the Civil Rights Division to participate as amicus curiae or to intervene in my case?

Are there job opportunities in the Appellate Section?


Q: What is the role of the Appellate Section?

A: The Appellate Section has primary responsibility for handling civil rights cases in the courts of appeals and, in cooperation with the Solicitor General, in the Supreme Court. The Section also provides legal counsel to other components of the Department of Justice regarding civil rights law and appellate litigation.

Most of the Section's appeals are from district court judgments in cases originally handled by trial sections within the Division. The appellate caseload is both affirmative and defensive. Thus, the Section handles all appeals from both favorable and adverse judgments in which the government participates.

A significant proportion of the Section's work involves participation as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the courts of appeals. In addition, we have intervened in appeals involving the constitutionality of federal civil rights statutes.

Q: When does the Civil Rights Division participate as amicus curiae in the courts of appeals?

A: Generally, the Division files amicus briefs in cases that have the potential for affecting Division enforcement responsibilities, especially those concerned with developing or problematic areas of civil rights law.

Q: When does the Civil Rights Division intervene in private litigation in the courts of appeals?

A: The Civil Rights Division usually intervenes in cases at the appellate level only when the constitutionality of a federal statute is challenged.

Q: How does the Division decide whether to participate in a case as amicus curiae or to intervene in private litigation?

A: Attorneys in the Appellate Section make a preliminary assessment of a case's suitability for amicus participation or intervention. Recommendations to participate or to intervene must be approved by the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and by the Solicitor General.

Q: What about amicus participation in the Supreme Court?

A: The Civil Rights Division, in cooperation with the Solicitor General, actively monitors civil rights cases that come before the Supreme Court, and participates as amicus curiae in most such cases at the merits stage. The United States rarely participates as amicus curiae at the petition stage unless the Supreme Court asks for our views.

Q: What should I do if I want the Civil Rights Division to participate as amicus curiae or to intervene in my case?

A: Inquiries about Civil Rights Division participation in private litigation in the courts of appeals or the Supreme Court should be directed to the Appellate Section, as early as possible in the litigation. Inquiries about Civil Rights Division participation in trial courts should be directed to the appropriate trial section.

Q: Are there job opportunities in the Appellate Section?

A: The Appellate Section employs a Section Chief, three Deputy Chiefs, and 14 attorneys. Turnover in these legal positions is low. The Section also employs a staff of paralegals and clerical personnel, as well as law students during both the summer and the school year. For more information about job opportunities for attorneys and law clerks, contact the Section. For more information about job opportunities for paralegals and clericals, contact our Administrative Management Section.


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Updated August 6, 2015

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