04 Apr 2017

Linklaters success in its first US Supreme Court amicus curiae brief

In a death row case, the test applied by Texas Criminal Appeals Court for determining which individuals are intellectually disabled in capital cases was found to violate the US constitution.

Brandon Bourdages

Linklaters has contributed to a US Supreme Court victory for Bobby Moore, a 57 year-old man with intellectual disabilities, who has been held on death row in Texas for over 35 years.  In the United States it is unconstitutional to execute prisoners with an ‘intellectual disability’, but differing tests for establishing this exist between states. Linklaters submitted an amicus curiae brief in relation to Mr Moore’s appeal on behalf of a number of leading international medical institutes and organisations, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the World Psychiatric Association. The brief addressed the use of medical standards in international legal jurisprudence. The firm conducted research across 25 jurisdictions and 4 international courts and did not find any instances of a court applying tests, standards or guidelines which the medical community generally accepted were out-of-date. 


The Supreme Court found that the test applied by the Texas Criminal Appeals Court for determining which defendants are intellectually disabled in capital cases violated the US constitution. The Texas Appeals Court decision in Mr Moore’s case was vacated, and the case has been remanded for further proceedings.  The team heading up the project were dispute resolution London partner Ben Carroll  and associate Kimmie Fearnside. Others involved included Linklaters alliance firms Allens, Webber Wentzel and best friend firm Talwar Thakore & Associates, as well as with local firms Bell Gully, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, A&L Goodbody, Kabraji & Talibuddin and KC Yangon. Commenting, Ben Carroll said: 'We are delighted that Mr Moore’s appeal was successful and are happy to have made a small contribution to this.' Margot Ravenscroft, Director of Amicus, said: 'Linklaters did a great job on this case and many others, not all cases end up in the Supreme Court; but every bit of work is incredibly valuable and they really do make a difference.'

Linklaters first 

The brief was formally submitted by Paul Hessler (Partner, DR New York), who has been admitted to the Supreme Court. At Linklaters, 60 lawyers globally contributed 1,500 hours to this matter since November 2015 across London, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Madrid, Brussels, Lisbon, Moscow, Milan, Warsaw, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and New York. This was the firm’s first amicus curiae brief in the US Supreme Court.