As one of the three liberal justices on the court, Justice Sotomayor and her colleagues can typically anticipate they will be outnumbered when deciding cases.
Over the last few years, rulings around issues of abortion rights, LGBT+ rights and racial equality have swung in conservatives’ favour.
“Every loss truly traumatises me in my stomach and in my heart,” Justice Sotomayor said on Monday while speaking with students at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
Justice Sotomayor, who was the first Latina woman appointed to the court, has become known for crafting passionate dissents. Last year, she wrote that the “symbolic damage” of the court’s decision in 303 Creative LLC v Elenis, an LGBT+ rights case, was “done”.
“But I have to get up the next morning and keep on fighting,” Justice Sotomayor said. “What choice do you have to be to fight the good fight.”
Looking to this term, the court is poised to issue opinions on gun rights, access to abortion medication, criminal justice statutes and Donald Trump’s eligibility for the presidency.
Based on the court’s make-up, the majority opinion in those cases is likely to differ from the opinion of Justice Sotomayor and the other liberal justices.
When asked how she continues working alongside conservative justices whom she disagrees with, Justice Sotomayor said she looks for the good in people.
“If you look for the good in people, you can deal with the bad more easily,” she said.
The more often the court takes up cases challenging decades-long precedents, the more opportunities arise for individuals and organisations with political motivations to litigate.
Justice Sotomayor told students that now, more than ever, cases are “bigger” and “more demanding.”
“The number of amici are greater, and you know that our emergency calendar is so much more active. I’m tired,” Justice Sotomayor said.
“There used to be a time when we had a good chunk of the summer break. Not anymore. The emergency calendar is busy almost on a weekly basis.”