Sonya So-So-Minor shows what she is made of

Adam Freedman writes at the Corner:

The Wise Latina Goes Off the Deep End

Here’s what happens when you pick Supreme Court Justices based on “empathy.”

Facts: An HIV-positive prisoner (Anthony Pitre) is transferred to a prison where all inmates are required to do hard labor. He doesn’t like hard labor and so, in protest, he refuses to take his HIV meds. As a result, he’s less fit for hard labor. But prison officials say: “Too bad, you still have to do hard labor like everyone else.” Pitre then sues the prison for “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Constitution.

The magistrate judge dismisses the claim as “patently frivolous.” The federal district court agrees. The Fifth Circuit agrees. Eight Supreme Court justices refuse to hear the case—with Justice Sotomayor dissenting. In a four-page dissent (highly unusual for a routine denial of certiorari), Sotomayor argues that Pitre had demonstrated that prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference” in violation of the Eighth Amendment (h/t Orin Kerr at Volokh).

Poor Sonia Sotomayor, she seems to be in over her head. Perhaps I’ll send her an empathy card.

One thing puzzles me. If every level of the court system starting with a magistrate judge and a federal district court refused even to hear the case, how did it manage to keep getting appealed to a next higher level, all the way to the Supreme Court?

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Dale Franciso writes:

Here’s a better summary of what happened, from Volokh.

Briefly, a magistrate judge—an agent of the district court—recommended dismissing the case as frivolous. The district court agreed. Pitre appealed the dismissal to the circuit court, which affirmed the district court ruling. Finally on his own (it’s not clear from the above account whether he had representation at the lower courts, but I assume he did—paid for by taxpayers, of course) Pitre filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court, which was denied 8-1.

October 24

Mark A. writes:

Great question. It keeps getting appealed because criminals get free legal assistance. The prisoners find it amusing to file these suits and there is always a lawyer to do the work. In turn, the lawyer submits his expenses and gets them refunded by the taxpayer.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 23, 2010 08:15 AM | Send

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