Sharpening the Focus: The Consequences of the Supreme Court’s Practice of Deciding Questions rather than Cases

Ben Johnson, Politics

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 12:00pm
LAPA Conference Room, 348 Wallace Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

RSVP appreciated: click here

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Precis: "For most of its history, the Supreme Court decided “cases.” Indeed, the statute governing the Court’s appellate jurisdiction still gives the Court the power to hear “cases” through certiorari. However, by rule, the Court only grants certiorari to “questions.” This paper traces this transition and examines the implications of the change. The shift from deciding cases to answering questions has done much to transform the Court into an oracle of constitutional truth from its roots as a judicial tribunal. Moreover, the focus on narrow questions has subtle and possibly harmful side effects on the development of law and the outcome of individual cases. Perhaps the new way is better than the old, or maybe not, but the first step is recognizing the differences."


Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson is a recent graduate of the PhD Program in Politics at Princeton. He will begin life as an Assistant Professor of Law at Penn State (University Park) in the fall.