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Type 1

Let Justice Sonia Sotomayor Do Her Job

3 Minute Read
Sonia Sotomayor

When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor looked tired at a speaking engagement in 2017, Donald Trump said: “Her health. No good. Diabetes.” 

Yes, diabetes isn’t good. It’s horrible in fact. And it’s a fine line we people with type 1 diabetes walk. How can we perform at the highest levels of government, sport, film, among other careers while living with this challenging illness? 

It's not an easy question to answer, and it’s one that Justice Sotomayor has been facing over the last few months. Some commentators have been calling for the 69-year-old to resign to allow President Biden to nominate a younger, healthier replacement ahead of the 2024 presidential election. 

There have been other reasons given as to why she should resign – some with calculus measurements that make my head spin – but the truth is, it’s the Justice’s age and health that’s at the center of this controversy. 

Sotomayor, who is very open about her type 1 diabetes, hasn't given any indication she's looking to retire. Nor should she. 

As someone who has lived with the disease for 33 years, I scratched my head when I learned of the calls for her to resign. Not because type 1 diabetes doesn’t make you vulnerable to short and long-term health complications – after all, I made a film about it – but because of the ignorance I heard from the pundits and politicians discussing it. 

Earlier this year, during a talk at Berkeley Law, Sotomayor admitted she was feeling tired from the increasing number of cases being brought before the court, many of them landmark cases with far-reaching consequences. Her honest admission was turned against her. It was alleged that it was her chronic illness making her tired, not the drafting of a very large number of majority and minority decisions of the court. I mean, who wouldn’t be exhausted?

Then there was the uproar when the Justice had a medic accompany her on a trip to Florida in 2018. And why, precisely, does this matter? Thinking like a pancreas is a lonely endeavor; I wish I had a medic following me around, too. And if the Justice’s purse is the size of a duffel bag to fit her backup diabetes supplies, who cares? With type 1 diabetes, you have to be prepared for the apocalypse. 

The fact that the Justice is taking all the proper precautions doesn’t make her weak and incapable of doing her job. On the contrary, it shows that she’s on top of managing her disease. 

It’s important to point out that if you have access to the best medical care in the world, coupled with an indefatigable drive to live past the life expectancy of this disease, you can function properly and reach the top echelons of your career. I don’t think it’s lost on the senior liberal justice that she needs to work very hard to stay healthy. 

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to screen my film, "The Human Trial," for the Justice. It’s about an issue close to both of our hearts – the quest to cure type 1 diabetes. When the film ended, her first question to me was: “How can we ensure that if this functional cure works, it will get to everyone who needs it?” Not only does her humanity run deep, but she is keenly aware of those less fortunate than herself. It is precisely this humanity that sets her apart from the other Justices.  

In the next five years, I am cautiously optimistic that there will be a functional cure for type 1 diabetes. Until then, let the Justice do her job and be the conscience of the Supreme Court. 

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