Judge Sotomayor's 50 Most Important Opinions:

Over at The Right Coast, USD law prof. Tom Smith has this interesting list of Judge Sotomayor's 50 Most Important Opinions. As I understand it, the algorithm he uses to collect the most important opinions — called PreCYdent — determines which particular opinions have been most influential in the development of the law. Interestingly, the top three opinions on the list are all immigration opinions:

1. ZHANG v. GONZALES, 426 F.3d 540 (2d Cir. 2005)

2. LIN v. GONZALES, 445 F.3d 126 (2d Cir. 2006)

3. BRISSETT v. ASHCROFT, 363 F.3d 130 (2d Cir. 2004).

I think this suggests that court of appeals judges are likely to have the most influence in areas of high-volume appeals — like immigration appeals. Of course, if confirmed, Judge Sotomayor will have for more expansive opportunities to influence the development of the law!

The first link is to Liu v. INS, and Judge Sotomayor isn't on the panel. Zhang v. Gonzales is here.
6.1.2009 9:46am
jpe (mail):
Coincidentally, I just stumbled on PreCYdent this weekend. It's a stellar and surprisingly wide-ranging database of decisions. Not as good as Westlaw or Lexis, probably, but the first free method of searching that approaches those and is more than adequate for most purposes.

I assume the cases are ranked by the number of cites in subsequent cases, but I could be wrong.
6.1.2009 9:46am
Reading the blurbs of the first dozen or so entries, one would conclude that either PreCYdent's algorithms are not very good at determining the importance of an opinion or else Judge Sotomayor has not been involved in very important cases.
6.1.2009 10:53am
Crunchy Frog:
I always find looking at dissents to be more interesting and illuminating - the filter of having to forge a majority consensus is absent and the full moonbattery/wingnuttiness (equal time for our lefty brethren) gets a chance to shine through in all its glory.
6.1.2009 1:33pm
Mark N. (www):
If it really is just counting citations, then it's to be expected that the "most influential" opinions are all in high-volume areas of litigation. In addition to just having more cases to begin with, high-volume areas of law often tend to develop form-letter-style opinions, where once a recurring issue has been decided once, it just gets stated with rote citation in subsequent cases, even if it wasn't a particularly interesting or close issue to decide.
6.2.2009 2:47am

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