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In dissent, Justice Sotomayor is the new Stevens

BOSTON, MA — In his later years on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens was not afraid to voice his objection to a certiorari denial in the form of a written dissent or statement accompanying the Court’s orders.

Now, according to USA Today, the Court’s most active cert denial dissenter is Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

So far this term, of the hundreds of appeals requests that have been rejected by the Court — largely without comment — seven have spurred written dissents, and Sotomayor joined in four. Three of them she authored herself, mostly in cases involving Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners.

In one case, Pitre v. Cain, involving a prisoner who claimed he’d been punished with hard labor in 100-degree heat for not taking his HIV medication, Sotomayor dismissed the argument that the prisoner brought the situation on himself.

“[The prisoner] allege[s] not that the respondents denied him medical care but that they punished him for refusing to take medication, or attempted to coerce him to take medication, by subjecting him to hard labor that they knew exceeded his medical limitations,” Sotomayor wrote, adding that she believed the court should have evaluated the claim.