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October 18, 2010

Justice Sotomayor dissents from cert denial in prisoner rights case

The one notable action for criminal justice fans in today's SCOTUS orders comes via Justice Sotomayor's dissent from the denial of certiorari in Pitre v. Cain (available here). It starts and ends this way:

Petitioner Anthony Pitre, a Louisiana state prisoner,stopped taking his HIV medication to protest his transferto a prison facility.  He alleges that respondents at thefacility punished him for this decision by subjecting him tohard labor in 100-degree heat.  According to Pitre, respondents repeatedly denied his requests for lighter duty more appropriate to his medical condition, even after prison officials twice thought his condition sufficiently serious torush him to an emergency room.  In response to one such request, respondent Cain expressly acknowledged in a letter attached to Pitre’s complaint that Pitre was “dealing with unnecessary pain and suffering, as well as cruel and unusual punishment,” but he accused Pitre of “bringing it on himself” by refusing to take his medication. App. F toPet. for Cert. (Exh. A-2). Cain concluded, “If you are suffering because of your own choices, so be it.”   As a result of respondents’ actions, Pitre alleges, his already-fragile medical condition deteriorated even further.

The courts below deemed these allegations insufficient to state an Eighth Amendment violation....

Pitre’s allegations, if true, describe “punitive treatment [that] amounts to gratuitous inflictionof ‘wanton and unnecessary’ pain that our precedent clearly prohibits.”  I cannot comprehend how a court could deem such allegations “frivolous.”  Because I believe that Pitre’s complaint states an Eighth Amendment violation, I would grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and reverse the judgment below.

October 18, 2010 at 12:11 PM | Permalink


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I am pleased to see there is still some remnant of humanity represented on the Supreme Court. But its total composition and judgment shows that it is no longer fit for purpose - assuming that purpose is to represent Justice within the law. If it no longer claims that purpose then anarchy rules, and the rights of the individual American are worthless under the Constitution.
This was a truly shocking refusal of certiorari.

Posted by: peter | Oct 18, 2010 1:06:41 PM

What is the skin color of the defendant? She is a hate filled, racist extremist who sees no guilty minority member, and no innocent white person.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 19, 2010 9:46:38 AM

Projecting AGAIN, SC?

Posted by: John K | Oct 19, 2010 1:04:21 PM

Orin Kerr flagged this case and there is an interesting debate in the comments. See Volokh Conspiracy.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 19, 2010 2:18:53 PM

The first comment by peter is clear and true.

Posted by: DLJ | Oct 19, 2010 4:35:59 PM

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