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How do interest groups try to influence the courts?

Interest groups try to influence the courts at the federal level in two main ways. They lobby the president to appoint, and senators to approve, justices they see as ideologically friendly to their interests. They also submit briefs to courts, hoping to influence the decisions in cases that affect them. At the state level, where judges are often elected, they contribute to campaigns and finance advertisements to influence voters.

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Federal court justices are appointed for life under the Constitution. This is intended to insulate them from direct political pressure, allowing them to make decisions based on the Constitution rather than public opinion. Still, interest groups influence federal court decisions in a couple of ways. First, they lobby presidents to appoint justices who are ideologically aligned with them. The National Rifle Association, for example, may lobby a president to appoint federal justices who have a record of opposition to gun control laws. Of course, since presidential appointments to the courts have to be approved by the Senate, interest groups can lobby senators for their votes in confirming appointees. Securing justices on the courts is also frequently an issue in Senate campaigns, one pushed to the forefront by interest groups. Interest groups also submit briefs, known as amicus curiae ("friend of the court"), to federal courts in cases that interest them. These briefs are intended to shape the opinion of the courts, and it is common for the Supreme Court to receive hundreds of them in high-profile cases.

At the state level, where justices are often elected and serve limited terms, interest groups can influence them in more direct ways, like any other elected official. They contribute to the campaigns of ideologically friendly justices, and they pay for advertisements to shape public opinion in favor of the candidates they support. State judicial campaigns are in fact major targets of spending for special interest groups.

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