Sonia Sotomayor’s decisions “are not always a pleasure to read,” writes Adam Liptak of the New York Times, but “they are usually models of modern judicial craftsmanship.” They are exhaustive and technical, with even uncontroversial propositions justified with detailed footnotes. They also reveal strikingly little about her. Sotomayor avoids quotable language, has hinted at no larger vision, and has never ruled on abortion, the death penalty, gay rights, or national security.
In the one case that stands out—Ricci v. DeStefano, the thorny racial-discrimination case brought by firefighters in New Haven that will soon go before the Supreme Court, Sotomayor issued an unsigned decision with just one paragraph of reasoning, deferring to a lower court’s arguments. An upcoming case will also prove revealing: Sotomayor will soon weigh in on the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian who says American officials sent him to Syria to be tortured.