2010 term United States Supreme Court opinions of Sonia Sotomayor

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The table below lists all opinions filed by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor during the 2010 term of the Supreme Court of the United States, which began October 4, 2010 and concluded October 1, 2011. This was the second term of Sotomayor's tenure on the Court. Sonia Sotomayor in SCOTUS robe.jpg
Sonia Sotomayor 2010 term statistics
Majority or Plurality
Concurrence/dissent Total = 25
Bench opinions = 22 Opinions relating to orders = 3 In-chambers opinions = 0
Unanimous decisions: 2 Most joined by: Breyer (13) Least joined by: Thomas (3)
Type Case Citation Issues Joined by Other opinions

Pitre v. Cain • [full text] 562 U.S. ___ (2010)

Eight Amendment  • prison conditions  • right to refuse medical treatment
Sotomayor dissented from the Court's denial of certiorari. She believed that the lower courts erred in dismissing a prison inmate's complaint, which alleged that, as punishment for his refusal to take his HIV medication as a protest against his transfer to a prison facility, prison officials subjected him to hard labor in extreme heat that posed a serious risk to his health. Sotomayor argued that the inmate stated an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference, and that it was incorrect for the lower court to dismiss his complaint for his failure to submit evidence in support prior to a responsive pleading being submitted.

Gamache v. California • [full text] 562 U.S. ___ (2010)

harmless error  • burden of proof Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan
Sotomayor filed a statement respecting the Court's denial of certiorari. Prior to rendering a guilty verdict and death sentence, a jury had been given access to a damaging video tape depicting the defendant that had not been admitted into evidence. The California Supreme Court, stating that the defendant had the burden of proving prejudice, determined that the introduction of the tape was harmless error. Sotomayor wrote to correct the court's error of law, noting that under Supreme Court precedent the burden is instead upon the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a constitutional trial error was harmless. She believed, however, that based on the evidence and the court's analysis, the outcome would have been the same in this case regardless of how the burden was allocated, and so did not disagree with the denial of certiorari.

Williams v. Hobbs • [full text] 562 U.S. ___ (2010)

habeas corpus  • evidentiary hearings  • preservation of issues on appeal Ginsburg
Sotomayor dissented from the Court's denial of certiorari of a judgment reversing the granting of a habeas petition after an evidentiary hearing. The petitioner had been convicted of murder in state court and sentenced to death after his attorneys conceded his guilt at trial and failed to present any substantive mitigating evidence at sentencing. In District Court, he established that his counsel was ineffective and at the evidentiary hearing to establish prejudice, presented evidence of his childhood of abuse and neglect. In reversing the District Court's granting of the petition, the Eighth Circuit claimed that the State had preserved its objection to the evidentiary hearing, when in Sotomayor's view it not only made no clear objection but in fact, "voluntarily participate[d]...without objection, with an apparent intent of supplementing the record for its own purposes, and at a significant cost and expenditure of judicial resources." "Today", she wrote, "the Court refuses to review the Eighth Circuit's conclusion that a State may withhold an objection to a federal habeas evidentiary hearing until after the hearing is complete, the constitutional violation established, and habeas relief granted. Because I believe such a rule enables, and even invites, States to manipulate federal habeas proceedings to their own strategic advantage at an unacceptable cost to justice, I respectfully dissent."

Chase Bank USA, N. A. v. McCoy 562 U.S. ___ (2011)


Bruesewitz v. Wyeth LLC 562 U.S. ___ (2011)

The Court ruled that a federal statute pre-empted a state civil suit.

Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc. 562 U.S. ___ (2011)


Michigan v. Bryant 562 U.S. ___ (2011)

Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Alito

Pepper v. United States 562 U.S. ___ (2011)

United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg; Breyer, Alito (in part)

Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano 562 U.S. ___ (2011)


Cullen v. Pinholster 563 U.S. ___ (2011)

Ginsburg, Kagan (in part)

Sossamon v. Texas 563 U.S. ___ (2011)

prisoners' rights  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act  • Spending Clause  • sovereign immunity Breyer

United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation 563 U.S. ___ (2011)


Chamber of Commerce of United States of America v. Whiting 563 U.S. ___ (2011)


Camreta v. Greene 563 U.S. ___ (2011)


Ashcroft v. al-Kidd 563 U.S. ___ (2011)

Ginsburg, Breyer

Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior Univ. v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. 563 U.S. ___ (2011)


DePierre v. United States 564 U.S. ___ (2011)

Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Kagan; Scalia (in part)

Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Ltd. Partnership 564 U.S. ___ (2011)

Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Kagan

United States v. Jicarilla Apache Nation 564 U.S. ___ (2011)


Davis v. United States (2011) 564 U.S. ___ (2011)


J. D. B. v. North Carolina 564 U.S. ___ (2011)

Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan

Tapia v. United States 564 U.S. ___ (2011)


Freeman v. United States 564 U.S. ___ (2011)


PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing 564 U.S. ___ (2011)

Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan

Bullcoming v. New Mexico 564 U.S. ___ (2011)


Further reading[edit]

  • Liptak, Adam (December 27, 2010), Sotomayor Guides Court’s Liberal Wing, The New York Times, retrieved December 28, 2010 . Commentary on how Sotomayor's opinions regarding the Court's denial of certiorari illustrate her judicial leanings ("Justice Sotomayor wrote three of the opinions, more than any other justice, and all concerned the rights of criminal defendants or prisoners.").