Last year, the Supreme Court "turned down thousands of appeals, almost always without comment." Of the seven opinions written in 2010 regarding why the Court did not hear a case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote three—more than any other justice—and all concerned the rights of criminal defendants, reports The New York Times. "The most telling one involved a Louisiana prisoner infected with H.I.V. No other justice chose to join it."
The prisoner, Anthony C. Pitre, had stopped taking his H.I.V. medicine to protest his transfer from one facility to another. Prison officials responded by forcing him to perform hard labor in 100-degree heat. That punishment twice sent Mr. Pitre to the emergency room.
The lower courts had no sympathy for Mr. Pitre’s complaints, saying he had brought his troubles on himself. Justice Sotomayor saw things differently. "Pitre’s decision to refuse medication may have been foolish and likely caused a significant part of his pain," she wrote. "But that decision does not give prison officials license to exacerbate Pitre’s condition further as a means of punishing or coercing him — just as a prisoner’s disruptive conduct does not permit prison officials to punish the prisoner by handcuffing him to a hitching post."
R20 first mentioned Pitre's appeal in October.
Sotomayor's four-page dissent is very moving. Read the full opinion (pdf) HERE.
The Times notes that Sotomayor is becoming the "voice" of the Court's liberal wing: "Sotomayor has completely dispelled the fear on the left that her background as a prosecutor would align her with the court’s more conservative members on criminal justice issues. And she has displayed a quality — call it what you will — that is alert to the humanity of the people whose cases make their way to the Supreme Court."
Sounds like it was a wise decision to appoint "the wise Latina".
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