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Amicus Briefs

An amicus brief is a written legal argument filed by someone not directly involved in a case on appeal to help educate the court about particular issues. The Project decides when to file amicus briefs based upon many factors including which jurisdiction the case is in, what the particular issues being advocated are, and what kind of an impact the brief might have.

Amicus briefs may be requested by attorneys or organizations.

Submit a Request for an Amicus Brief


Amicus Briefs Submitted by the Pa. Innocence Project (click on case name to get a copy of the brief):

Commonwealth v. Benjamin Walker

  • Court: Pa. Supreme Court
  • Drafting Firms: Pepper Hamilton LLP & Buchannan Ingersoll
  • Issue: Urging the justices to allow Pennsylvania trial judges to admit experts on human memory in terms of how eyewitness identification may be impacted.
  • Decision: Court adopted the position; eyewitness identification experts are no longer per se barred in Pennsylvania.

Commonwealth v. Alicea

  • Court: Pa. Supreme Court
  • Drafting Firm: Schnader Harrison
  • Issue: Supporting the position that Pennsylvania courts should allow experts to testify before juries concerning the phenomenon of false confessions.
  • Decision: Court declined to adopt the position; expert regarding false confessions will not be permitted at trial levels.

Commonwealth v. Dennis

  • Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Issue:  Educating the court on the concerns with the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness identification testimony and the role such testimony has played in convicting the actually innocent.
  • Decision: Court granted habeas relief, citing to the Project brief.

Han Tak Lee v. Gunt

  • Court:  Third Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Issue: Discussing the availability of an “actual innocence” claim in federal habeas corpus proceedings.
  • Decision: Court remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing, favorably citing to the Project brief.

Commonwealth v. Edmiston

  • Court: Pa. Supreme Court
  • Issue: The Court should interpret the Pennsylvania post-conviction DNA statute liberally to allow the intended parties access to evidence.
  • Decision: Court did not reach the issue but affirmed the trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief.

Commonwealth v. Descardes

  • Court: Pa. Supreme Court
  • Drafting Firm: Pepper Hamilton LLP
  • Issue: The Court should dismiss the case as lacking a controversy; if the Court reaches the issue, the Court should decide that the common law doctrine of coram nobis should be maintained to allow those who have completed their sentences to access courts in order to prove their actual innocence.

Kuren and Allabaugh v. Luzerne County

  • Court: Pa. Supreme Court
  • Drafting Firm: Ballard Spahr LLP
  • Issue: The Court should allow a civil suit claiming Luzerne County’s failure to fully fund the county public defender office amounts to a systemic denial of the constitutional right to effective counsel.

Commonwealth v. Duvall

  • Court: Pa. Supreme Court
  • Drafting Firm: Duane Morris LLP
  • Issue: The Court should consider confessions obtained by police use of misleading facts — particularly related to scientific evidence — with caution.

Commonwealth v. Burton

  • Court: Pa. Supreme Court
  • Drafting Firm: Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP
  • Issue: The Court should affirm the Superior Court’s ruling that Mr. Burton is entitled to a hearing on whether he met the “newly discovered evidence” prong of the PCRA’s time limitations.