SOTOMAYOR DOESN’T DISAPPOINT…. There were some concerns last year that Sonia Sotomayor might prove to be a disappointment. David Souter had, thankfully, proven to be one of the Supreme Court’s reliable center-left votes, and many feared that Sotomayor might actually move the high court slightly to the right.

It’s obviously early in the justice’s career, but we can start to appreciate Sotomayor’s approach to her position based on what we’ve seen so far. The NYT‘s Adam Liptak noted this week that she “has completely dispelled the fear on the left” about her judicial ideology.

[F]or anyone looking for insight into the justices, there was much more information to be gleaned from another genre of judicial writing. In the last three months, the court has turned down thousands of appeals, almost always without comment. On seven occasions, though, at least one justice had something to say about the court’s decision not to hear a case.

Such writings are completely discretionary, and they open a window onto the author’s passions. They are also a good way to keep track of the divisions on the court.

An ideological fault line ran through those seven opinions. Not a single member of the court’s four-member liberal wing joined any of the three opinions written by a conservative justice. And not a single member of the court’s four-member conservative wing joined any of the four opinions written by a liberal justice. […]

Justice Sotomayor wrote three of the opinions, more than any other justice, and all concerned the rights of criminal defendants or prisoners.

The piece is worth reading for the details, but given her brief tenure, there can be no doubt that Sotomayor is one of the high court’s more forceful progressive voices.

President Obama appears to have chosen wisely. Here’s hoping his chances to nominate others aren’t over yet.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.