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Latin in the News

Latin doesn't typically show up in our daily lives, but perhaps the lawyers amongst us will disagree. From habeas corpus to nolo contendere, these phrases are part of the legal lingo. And even some of us who are not fluent in legalese may be familiar with such expressions from the myriad police procedural and legal drama shows on television.

From NPR, we can add one more of those terms which we are likely to hear quite often in the next few days: amicus curiae, "Friend of the Court." An amicus curiae is an entity not party to a case who voluntarily offers information to a court about that case.

The on-going Supreme Court case about the Affordable Health Care Act has seen a record number of amici briefs. There are no official numbers, but it is thought to exceed the previous "record"--102 amici briefs were filed during the 2003 case about affirmative action in higher education, Gratz v. Bollinger. Bloomberg News counts 136 amici briefs for the healthcare case, from as diverse people and organizations as Speaker of the House John Boehner, the Cato Institute, and the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

But not matter the number, no court is obligated to consider any information offered in an amicus brief. As the drama in the Supreme Court plays out, celebrate the little bit of Latin in popular media, and impress your friends with your knowledge of Latin terms!