Supreme Media Coverage


Since President Barack Obama announced earlier this month[1] that he would look for “empathy” as a key quality in his nominee for the Supreme Court, pundits have debated whether this is[2] or isn’t[3] 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[4] 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[5]. This agreement seems to rest, at least in part, on Sotomayor’s diabetes control. The blog Swampland reports[6] that, according to a White House official, Sotomayor has “consistent blood sugars better than 98% of diabetics,” and her HbA1c[7] 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[8] 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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