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!