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What do the Justices think they’re doing? They seem to act like appeals judges, who address questions of law as needed to reach a decision — and yet also like curators, who single out only certain questions as worthy of the Supreme Court’s attention. Most of the time, the Court’s “appellate mind” and its “curator mind” are aligned because the Justices choose to hear cases where a curated question of interest is also central to the outcome. But not always. In some cases, the Court discovers that it cannot reach — or no longer wishes to reach — the originally curated question. Looking at what the Justices say and do in such instances offers a revealing glimpse into the interplay between their appellate and curator roles. These cases illustrate how the norms of appellate judging can enhance, rather than constrain, the Court’s discretion in choosing which issues to address and which to avoid. Using this discretion, however, entails the risk of distorting legal doctrines beyond those curated for review.


Law | Supreme Court of the United States


This article originally appeared in 122 Colum. L. Rev. F. 90 (2022). Reprinted by permission.