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Lame argument for Sotomayor?

June 8, 2009 |  3:17 pm

Soto Twenty-four years ago in London I was crossing a street when I was hit by a car, breaking an arm and a leg (but not paying an arm and a leg to the National Health Service surgeons). After my leg was reset in the United States, I hobbled around on crutches for a while, gaining a smidgen of insight into the inaccessibility of so many public places, especially in my hilly hometown of Pittsburgh. (When I asked for a wheelchair, the nurse refused, saying, "In my experience, if you give a patient a wheelchair, it just becomes a crutch.")

That experience gives me a tenuous connection with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who broke her ankle yesterday and was photographed negotiating a hallway on crutches. Actually, this is my second Sotomayor link. It seems we shared a Torts class at Yale Law School in 1976, though I don't remember her and I'm sure she doesn't remember me. The class itself, taught by a professor who is now one of Sotomayor's colleagues on the federal appeals court in New York, was quite memorable. It introduced me to one of the great phrases in Tort law, "attractive nuisance."  

I don't know if Sotomayor will be able to sue New York's LaGuardia Airport, where she stumbled. The real consolation for the judge is that this experience increases her empathy quotient. It's debatable, however, whether she should tell the Senate that "I would hope that a wise Latina woman who has had to schlep around on crutches would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who can run down the stairs of the Capitol."

Photo: Sonia Sotomayor walks on crutches following a meeting with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) at the U.S. Capitol Monday (Win McNamee / Getty Images).

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