Washington, D.C. – The Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America (“Chamber”) is one of the most influential lobbying groups in the country, and it regularly submits amicus curiae briefs in significant appellate cases in order to advance its pro-business agenda. However, in a recently filed class action alleging breach of fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), the Chamber took the unusual step of seeking leave to file an amicus brief in a trial court proceeding. Edelson Lechtzin LLP, as co-counsel for Plaintiffs, opposed the Chamber’s motion, arguing that allowing the Chamber to file a brief at the pleading stage would create a slippery slope that could open the door for the Chamber to file similar briefs in every ERISA class action challenging high fees or underperforming investments. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed and denied the Chamber’s motion.
Why did the court rebuff the Chamber’s intrusion in this case?
The Court began its analysis by defining the proper role of an amicus participant. “An amicus curiae, defined as [a] friend of the court,… does not represent the parties but participates only for the benefit of the Court,” explained Judge Sullivan (quoting U.S. v. Microsoft Corp., 2002 WL 319366, at *2 (D.D.C. 2002)). Judge Sullivan noted that courts have “the discretion of the Court to determine the fact, extent, and manner of participation by the amicus.”
Other courts have recognized three situations in which an amicus should normally be allowed to participate in a case. First, an amicus brief should be allowed when a party isn’t represented by an attorney (or at least not competently represented). Second, an amicus may be allowed if it “has an interest in some other case that may be affected by the decision in the present case…” Jin v. Ministry of State Sec., 557 F. Supp. 2d 131, 137 (D.D.C. 2008). Third, an amicus could be allowed when it “has unique information or perspective that can help the court beyond the help that the lawyers for the parties are able to provide.” Id.
Here, the Court found that none of these circumstances were present, stating:
“(1) movants have not shown that a party is not adequately represented, and (2) several of movant’s arguments are duplicative of those in the defendants’ motion to dismiss.” Id.
The case is In re American National Red Cross ERISA Litigation, Case No.1:21-cv-00541-EGS (D.D.C. December 7, 2021).
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Edelson Lechtzin LLP is a national class action law firm with offices in Pennsylvania and California. In addition to cases involving employee retirement plans, our lawyers focus on class and collective litigation in cases alleging violations of the federal antitrust laws, securities and investment fraud, wage theft and unpaid overtime, consumer protection, and dangerous and defective drugs and medical devices.