Notre Dame Law School Faculty Submit Friends-of-the-Court Briefs to U.S. Supreme Court

Author: Lauren Love

This month, three Notre Dame Law School faculty have submitted amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in cases involving design patent, religious liberty and national security.

On behalf of the families of the 241 U.S. servicemen killed in the 1983 truck-bombing attack on a Marine barracks in Beirut, Jimmy Gurulé, professor of law, with six other law professors who teach and publish in the field of national security law, filed a friends-of-the-court brief in Bank Markazi v. Peterson. At issue is $1.75 billion in blocked Iranian assets currently held in a trust account in New York. Gurulé’s brief argues the funds should be handed over to the victims’ families.

“I strongly believe that enforcing plaintiffs’ judgments with the blocked assets of Iran will provide some minimum closure and compensation for the surviving family members of the victims of the 1983 terrorist attack,” Gurulé said.

With $70 million on the line, Richard Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation professor of law, joined 15 other constitutional scholars in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court’s Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell case. The religious order says it will be forced to pay the government a large amount if they continue to refuse to arrange for insurance that provides lay employees coverage for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization.

“Our brief argues that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides for an appropriate balance between the religious-freedom rights of the Little Sisters and the interests of others who could be affected by the accommodation they are seeking,” Garnett said. “Because of this balancing, both the act itself and the accommodation the Little Sisters are seeking are consistent with the First Amendment’s rule against establishments of religion.”

Mark McKenna, professor of law and associate dean for faculty development, co-authored an amicus brief with a group of 37 other law professors in the case Apple v. Samsung. The petition argues in favor of Samsung’s position that design patent rights should be limited to cover non-functional and ornamental aspects of a product.

McKenna said he thought “the Court needs to take this case to address both of these issues, because the Federal Circuit has not dealt with them adequately.”

“Our faculty contributes to the common good in numerous ways,” said Dean Nell Jessup Newton. “First and foremost through great teaching and scholarship, but also by providing the courts, policymakers, and the public with the benefit of their expertise. Amicus briefs help the Court by bringing its attention to aspects of a case that otherwise might not have been fully presented and by alerting the justices to the real-world impact of a ruling that goes one way or the other.”