Sotomayor, Diabetes, and the Supreme Court


By: Kristin Lund

As you probably know by now, President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court is Judge Sonia Sotomayor. If she is confirmed to the lifelong post, Sotomayor will be not only the first Hispanic to sit on the high court, but also the first Justice with type 1 diabetes.

Enter a fascinating dialogue on what conditions should preclude a person from sitting on the high court. The Internet is buzzing about whether Sotomayor’s diabetes should have anything at all to do with her nomination.

To this writer’s mind, stirring up controversy about Sotomayor’s diabetes is just a way for her detractors to try to prevent her from getting onto the Supreme Court. This woman has handled her diabetes just fine since she was eight years old. And besides, it’s a slippery slope-if we start disqualifying people now for symptoms they might have some time in the future, where will we stop?

I am all for Sotomayor’s making it to the Supreme Court. She’s a woman, she grew up working class, she’s Hispanic, and she has diabetes. Of course, just because Sotomayor is a Latina with diabetes doesn’t mean that she will vote in line with her life experiences. The June 8, 2009, issue of Time magazine quoted a 2001 speech that Sotomayor made at the University of California, Berkeley, in which she said that a judge’s gender and ethnicity should affect the decisions she makes. Then she quoted Justice Sandra O’Connor as saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.” Sotomayor disagreed, saying that “a wise Latina woman might well reach a different conclusion than a white male who has lived a different life.”

Right on.

The thing is, as Time points out, that Sotomayor has thus far made mostly small decisions as a judge (compared to, as Time calls it, the “big picture” decisions justices make on the Supreme Court). Only when Sotomayor sits on the highest court in the land will she be able to put her life experience to work making decisions that support us all.

What do you think about President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor? Do you think she’s going to be good for the diabetes community? Do you think she should not be given the chance because she has type 1? Do you think she will use her life experiences when making decisions? Add your comments below.    



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