Dissenting Opinions are 'letters to the future'

A dissenting opinion (or dissent) is an opinion in a legal case in certain legal systems written by one or more judges expressing disagreement with the majority opinion of the court which gives rise to its judgment. When not necessarily referring to a legal decision, this can also be referred to as a minority report.

On October 4th 2021 the new term of the Supreme Court began Justice Sotomayor said her role would be to enter a new season of dissent. The court is set to grapple with some of the biggest cases in Sotomayor's tenure, including another abortion case that represents a full-frontal attack on Roe v. Wade, as well as a Second Amendment dispute that could lead to the invalidation of gun restrictions in the country.

With a conservative majority on the court she see the dissenting minority of liberal justice has having to write letter to the future."She is crafting arguments for future advocates, she is creating these road maps for how to restore rights to disempowered people," Columbia Law School's Alexis Hoag said at a recent event sponsored by the liberal American Constitution Society. "I'm looking for lengthy dissents."

Last April, Sotomayor acknowledged that she was writing for the future at times. "Maybe," she said, "a later court will understand I was right."

George Washington University Law Professor David Fontana -- who once dubbed Sotomayor the "People's Justice" -- took to Twitter recently to highlight her role after the court's majority allowed the Texas law to go into effect.

Sotomayor believes that judicial restraint i.e. keeping out of politics is also a deeply political act. Commenting on the Court's decision not to rule on the Texas law which restricts the rights of women to get an abortion, "The Court's order is stunning," Sotomayor wrote at the time. "Presented with an application to join a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of the Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand."

Sotomayor added: "The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law," she concluded. Last term, Sotomayor dissented in more than half of the divided cases for the third time in eight years, according to statistics compiled by Scotusblog.

In one case , the court made it easier to sentence juveniles to life without parole. Sotomayor seized on the dispute, noting that the majority had gutted recently decided precedent. She was in dissent too when the court said that two provisions of an Arizona voting law that restricts how ballots can be cast did not violate the historic Voting Rights Act and she disagreed with the majority in cases that came to the court via its emergency docket.