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September 30, 2019

Noticing Justice Sotomayor's persistent voice as SCOTUS turns away capital cases

Adam Liptak has this new New York Times piece headlined "In Death Penalty Cases, Sotomayor Is Alone in ‘Bearing Witness’." Here are brief excerpts:

The terse Supreme Court rulings arrived in the evening, in time to allow an execution later that night.  There were three rulings in the last month or so, at 5:52 p.m., at 7:01 p.m. and at 10:13 p.m. They were bland and formulaic, saying only that the court had denied an “application for stay of execution of sentence of death.”  The inmates who had filed the applications were put to death within hours.

In all three cases, only one member of the court bothered to write an opinion, to give a hint about what was at stake.  That was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who maintains a sort of vigil in the capital cases other justices treat as routine.  She described shortcomings in the trials the inmates had received and oddities in the laws the courts below had applied....

There is a precedent for Justice Sotomayor’s attention to capital cases, said Jordan M. Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas....  “Justice Sotomayor is carrying forward the tradition of Justices Brennan and Marshall,” Professor Steiker said, referring to Justices William J. Brennan Jr. and Thurgood Marshall, who came to adopt a practice of dissenting in every death penalty case....

Justice Sotomayor’s sustained attention to the capital justice system, Professor Steiker said, was part of an effort to speak to many audiences. “She recognizes the institutional limits of the court in correcting every injustice or every misreading of federal law, yet she wants to communicate the wrongness of those injustices and misreadings despite the court’s inability to intervene,” Professor Steiker said. “Justice Sotomayor is speaking to institutional actors — judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers — to make clear that the court, or least some portion of it, is keenly aware of problems that it is not presently able to correct.

September 30, 2019 at 09:53 AM | Permalink


Most media would call this an EXTREME position as other 8 members think she's off her rocker, literally. The DP is here to stay she should get used to it and stop the non-nonsensical dissents. She alone has ZERO chance of abolishing the death penalty no matter how many more states put a hold on. Cant wait to see her dissents in upcoming federal death case sin December.

Posted by: DeanO | Oct 1, 2019 8:52:01 AM

Have you all heard the latest outrage in Texas? Defendant, white female cop Amber Guyger, who is charged with killing a black man in his apartment who posed no threat to her while he was minding his own business, may be able to use the Castle (Stand Your Ground) to beat the rap! The judge who just allowed the jury to use the Castle Law is just like the judge at Stanford University who allowed a star athlete rapist to get off with a lenient sentence for raping a woman. That judge got recalled. So should this judge in Texas. Who does he think he is in allowing an intoxicated white policewoman get away scott free for murdering a law-abiding black man in cold blood in what was HIS apartment, not hers?

This is a blatant misuse of "Stand Your Ground." Texans with any decency in them should vote to recall this judge, especially if his instructions persuade the jury to let this killer-cop walk away from any punishment for her crime!

Posted by: William R. Delzell | Oct 1, 2019 9:54:35 AM

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