Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been ruffling a few feathers since she became a member of the U.S.’s highest court.
Only in her second term, the first Hispanic member, Justice Sotomayor has publicly voiced her concern over the court’s refusal to hear some appeals, especially those involving prisoners.
Sotomayor has said that she refuses to allow states to “manipulate federal proceedings to their own strategic advantage at an unacceptable cost to justice,” and has been the most vocal justice when it comes to criminal law cases.
A law clerk to Sotomayor earlier in her career, Adam Abensohn, is response to her recent actions said, “If she has a viewpoint, she won’t hesitate to assert herself. If she thinks it’s a good idea to do something, she’s not going to hold simply because ‘it’s not the way things are done’ or because she’s relatively new.”
In the case of a Louisiana prisoner who, after refusing to take his HIV medication was punished with an extra work load in dangerous heat, Sotomayor did not hesitate to object when her fellow justices refused to hear the case in court or give an opinion on the ruling of lower courts.
In the U.S. Supreme Court, it takes four votes from the nine justices to take a case. It then takes five votes to resolve a case.
While some may argue that the justice is lenient, one needs only point to her questioning style. Justice Sotomayor is often the most demanding questioner in the court during oral arguments, and is known interrupt another justice to ensure a direct and truthful answer, and only makes decisions based on facts and “free of rhetorical flourish.”