High hopes for Sotomayor

Remember the post I wrote about the Autism Society of America endorsing Sonia Sotomayor?

The Autism Society of America, along with dozens of other disability groups, signed a letter supporting Sotomayor’s confirmation. The letter was sent to Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

I’m sure ASA members enjoyed seeing Judge Sotomayor sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on Saturday! A story in the Los Angeles Times acknowledged that Sotomayor’s experience as a Latina seemed to overshadow discussions about her qualifications during the debate and confirmation hearings. The reporter wrote that other aspects of her background that might influence her decisions were hardly mentioned in the Senate fight.

After she is sworn into office Saturday, she will be the only justice whose first language is not English. She has had diabetes since childhood — a medical condition classified as a disability under federal law.

A story in the New York Times compared Sotomayor’s attitude about her disability to the no-nonsense way she handles herself in court.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor carries a small black travel pouch, not much larger than a wallet. It contains the implements she needs — a blood sugar testing kit, a needle and insulin — to manage diabetes, a disease she has had for 46 years. Friends say she is not shy about using it.

“She’ll be eating Chinese dumplings,” said Xavier Romeu Matta, a former law clerk to the judge, “and she’ll say, ‘Excuse me sweetie,’ and pull out the kit and inject her insulin.”

That no-nonsense attitude, combined with the attention to detail that characterizes her legal opinions, has been a hallmark of Judge Sotomayor’s approach to Type 1 diabetes, according to friends, colleagues and her longtime doctor, Andrew Jay Drexler.

The Los Angeles times story reported that some lawyers are saying Sotomayor’s experience with a chronic illness is bound to influence her views.

“She may be a strong voice for access to healthcare,” said Sylvia Lazos, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “She will be a real player in the debates over what is a disability.”

The Los Angeles Times article said that advocates for people with disabilities have suffered some major defeats in the Supreme Court the last decade, and they are very hopeful about Sotomayor’s appointment.

“We’re very excited. We don’t feel we have had a champion on the current court,” said Andrew Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities.


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