WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has set herself apart from colleagues with her fervent statements protesting the majority's refusal to take some appeals, particularly involving prisoners.
Each month, the justices spurn hundreds of petitions from people who have lost in lower courts, and rarely does an individual justice go public with concern about the denial. In the seven times it has happened since the annual term opened in October, Justice Sotomayor has signed four of the opinions, more than any other justice. She was the lead author on three, again more than any other justice.
She forcefully dissented when the justices refused to hear the appeal of a Louisiana prisoner who claimed he was punished for not taking his HIV medication. He said prison officials subjected him to hard labor in 100-degree heat. Writing alone, she said the inmate had a persuasive claim of cruel and unusual punishment.
This emerging pattern of dissenting statements helps define a justice in her second term who is still — like newest justice Elena Kagan— fresh in the public eye.