Supreme Media Coverage

Since President Barack Obama announced earlier this month that he would look for “empathy” as a key quality in his nominee for the Supreme Court, pundits have debated whether this is or isn’t an appropriate standard. Now that he has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor — who has Type 1 diabetes — some in the media have asked whether her condition might affect with whom she empathizes and, ultimately, how she decides cases.


An article at McClatchy suggests that Sotomayor’s diabetes has influenced the way she views cases dealing with discrimination. According to a law professor quoted in the article, she has tended to rule in favor of plaintiffs with disabilities, including a woman with dyslexia who was granted extra time to take the New York state bar examination.

There have been few assertions that Sotomayor’s diabetes could directly impair her ability to complete her duties; although many news stories have examined the question, most conclude that concern is not warranted. This agreement seems to rest, at least in part, on Sotomayor’s diabetes control. The blog Swampland reports that, according to a White House official, Sotomayor has “consistent blood sugars better than 98% of diabetics,” and her HbA1c level is normally less than 6.5%.

Given that presidents usually look for Supreme Court justices who can serve a long time, do you think it was acceptable for the White House to ask Sotomayor for medical information before finalizing her nomination — as an Associated Press story suggests — or does this undermine the idea of nondiscrimination? Do you believe having diabetes confers a special ability to empathize with people who have disabilities? If so, is this a good or bad characteristic in a Supreme Court justice? Leave a comment below!

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  • mag

    Prior to Sotomayor’s nomination, there hasn’t been an issue with the health status of any of the Supreme court judges, that I’ve heard of. I don’t think “diabetes”bestows anyone with the special ability to empathize with persons suffering from diabetes.If it does with Sotomayor, well it just goes to show who can read any judges minds and know exactly what their decisions are going to be?I think she can be as effective as the rest of the judges serving in the supreme court, we are not focused on some of their ages, and the changes that have occured as they age. Are we concerned with the dicisions being made by them up to now?

  • David Spero RN

    It’s been rather amazing to see the ultra-conservatives try to make “empathy” a bad thing. It just goes to show how sick some of the politics in this country has become. I think it’s great that we have a person with a chronic illness on the court. I can swear from experience that having a long-term condition like this opens your mind and your heart.

  • R. Woodward

    This non-issue is beyond ridiculous. Is the requisite for being on the Supreme Court is that a person have no distinguishing personal background whatsoever? If so, we should probably be looking for a computer program to make judicial determinations. No one can be 100% impartial on every subject. It’s inhuman. The best we can hope for is a group of judges who can overcome their personal feelings and reason judiciously.

  • tug

    It is in fact only questioned by those who are ill-informed about diabetes. When the real issues with Sotomayor’s nomination should be focused upon her record on the bench and if she has demonstrated a subjective or objective line of reasoning in reaching her descisions, as Justice is supposed to be blind and EQUAL to all. If she has agendas she is attempting to promote and any political action groups she is associated with or belongs to and has it affected her rulings. Also the number of her judgements that were overturned. But the issue of Diabetes is a NON-ISSUE!

  • Mr. G

    I find it amazing that when politics is involved opinions get out of control. If a judge had cancer, hemroids, acne, or any other health problem, regardless of how severe, someone with a political agenda is going to play the fear card in order to get a tribe of people concerned. I have diabetes and I’m an IT engineer. No one says I can’t do my job effectively because I can do it very well. If a political party thought there was something to gain, I would probably be told I can’t do my job well. This opinion would be coming from a politician who mentally believes they are also a doctor. Everyone should be given a chance. We need to grow up and take the high road. Unfortnately lobbies toss around a lot of money and politicians bend over to get as much as they can, even if it means ruining a life or a country. If it makes it to the media, money and politics are in the wings. May God help us all.

  • granny Pat

    Oh for heavens sake! Quit with the petty stuff. Her diabetes is under control. This should not make any difference with the way she will fullfill her duties.

    Some people will always go searching for anything to cause hate and discontent.

    Our president has made his choice. He is our leader. He will always do what is best for this country.

    Get real people!!!

  • Jennifer Spector

    As a parent of a 6 year old who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 3 months ago – I am beyond thrilled that my little girl will have such an accomplished woman to look up to. It is always nice to meet or hear about someone who has overcome some of the issues that go along with being a Diabetic, since my daughter’s entire life is still ahead of her. Not only is Obama’s choice a wonderful one, but she is a role model for young girls everywhere – with or without Diabetes. Sotomayor has been an accomplished person from day one and her schooling is to be commended and now all of her hard work is paying off. I praise her hard work and tanacity and Obama for thinking outside the box!

  • febguz

    If stupidity has permeated the House, the Senate and the Whie House, why not take a chance on a diabetic. Seems less risky to me.

  • Rose Trujillo

    I can understand the necessity of having a Supreme Court Justice be totally impartial in making decisions that are life changing; however must one be constantly reminded of the elementary fact that we are humans not robots. Does it mean being a justice is to be inhumane? Without feelings? Are they so elite that the laws they create are above reproach? To be human is to err and visa versa. Realizing that the position (next to the Presidency) is one of the most prestigious in the land. They’re still human. It’s as though if you behave human (which is to “feel”) it is considered a weakness, or “common”. Well, if they are responsible for creating the law of the land why shouldn’t that law meet the needs of the people it serves and not the minority opinion which is so often the case. i.e. religion vs. government, in a country which originated because of the passion for religious freedom. Her diabetes isn’t the issue, face it, it’s her ethnicity. Republicans are just grasping for straws.

  • Bea Rhea

    re: the complaint about the decision concerning the “woman with dyslexia who was granted extra time to take the New York state bar examination”

    It’s the law!
    It has been established that those with learning disabilities are given scope (extra time, extra help, as needed) in our educational systems and the same has been required of employers.

    My husband, blind, cannot be legally turned away from an employment test because of his disability. Tests do, of course, have to be specially scheduled so that a reader/recorder can be scheduled but he takes the test. So far, he has worked for the State of Illinois (37 years), the State of Missouri and the State of Florida. This means he has been on the job, not on the dole, for the past 42 years.

    The law is written in order to allow people the opportunity to become successful people, contributors to the tax roles and to society. It’s the law!

  • JM

    When I went to read this e-mail I was so surprised that this magazine is involved in politics. This issue is so stupid. What does this have to do with her voting record. That is what is important. I am waiting for the Supreme court to rule on the case that is before them that she ruled on. That is what is important not whether she has diabetes or not.

  • Jeanne

    If diabetes is to be an issue in this nomination, then perhaps we need to get rid of some of the “old” foagies and everyone that has a health issue in Washington. Now that would surely clean house in politics. Hmm, that just might work.
    Seriously now, she has been functioning very well all these years and I think it is time we put the discrimination issues on the back burner and let her do what she can. I think Sonia Sotomayor will be an asset to the Supreme Court.