Justice Sotomayor included odd medical requests during travel, records show

 February 24, 2024

According to newly released U.S. Marshals Service records, Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the sole sitting member of the Supreme Court who has sought rare medical assistance during travel in recent years.

Sotomayor, who has lived with Type 1 diabetes since childhood, was accompanied by a medic during a February 2018 trip to South Florida, as indicated in records obtained by the liberal court watchdog Fix The Court.

The details

The revelation has sparked discussions among some left-leaning court observers who have raised questions about whether she should consider retiring from the bench, potentially allowing President Joe Biden to nominate a successor ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The February 2018 trip occurred a month after paramedics were called to her residence in January of that year due to "symptoms of low blood sugar," a spokesperson for the high court confirmed at the time.

Marshals Service records disclosed that in both 2021 and 2022, Sotomayor embarked on at least four trips where her luggage included "medical gear" or was accompanied by a redacted description of "baggage/medical supplies."

Health concerns?

The discussions surrounding 69-year-old Sotomayor's health echo the contentious decision made by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to remain on the bench during the tenure of former President Barack Obama.

Ginsburg's passing in September 2020 allowed former President Donald Trump to nominate and confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett, solidifying his third appointment to the high court and securing a 6-3 majority of Republican-appointed justices.

In a conversation on CNN This Morning on January 30 regarding Sotomayor's recent remarks about feeling fatigued by the high court's expanding docket, anchor Phil Mattingly asked reporter and podcast host Josh Barro about the implications of her statement.

"It's quite possible the Democrats will lose control of the Senate in the next election, and who knows how long it could be before there's a next opportunity for a Democratic president to make a new appointment to the seat she occupies. Justice Scalia remained through the 2006 election, but did not make it to 2017, which would have been the next opportunity," Barro remarked.

The growing controversy

Sotomayor, the most senior of the three Democratic-appointed justices, has served on the court for 15 years, with justices holding lifetime appointments. The oldest member of the court is 75-year-old Clarence Thomas.

Prior to Biden's 2022 appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the left-leaning group Demand Justice campaigned to persuade then-Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from the bench to facilitate Jackson's nomination, making her the first Black woman to serve on the nine-member court.

While Sotomayor has not signaled any intention to retire, she recently made notable comments acknowledging the demanding nature of her work and expressing fatigue despite maintaining a positive outlook toward her responsibilities.

Sotomayor and Justice Amy Coney Barrett addressed the National Governors Association winter meeting on Friday, discussing the inner workings of the high court and its lessons on bipartisanship.

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