Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Media Inflating Roberts' Medical Episode

Yesterday, CJ Roberts was treated at a hospital in Maine for his second seizure in 14 years. The first seizure apparently occurred while he was going through his confirmation hearings for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Some have pointed to stress as a triggering factor for Roberts' first seizure. This time, Roberts was on vacation when the second seizure occurred.

Because of Roberts' two seizures, medical doctors now consider Roberts to have epilepsy. Among some of the options for treatment are medication (which apparently can have some unpleasant side effects) or doing nothing and waiting. Some states prohibit sufferers of epilepsy from driving until they can prove that their condition is under control.

Admittedly the Justice is not in the best of health. However, it appears that the media and in specific, Linda Greenhouse of the NY Times in an article, takes a rather extreme view of what has happened. A man in his early 50s has visited the hospital for a condition which medicine can treat. There's nothing more and nothing less. Greehouse seems to imply that the legal world will now face great changes using almost hyperbolic language. She says:

"In October, when he returns to his seat at the center of the Supreme Court bench, will colleagues and courtroom spectators see the same golden youth whose trajectory was unmarked by setback or sorrow? Or will they see someone suddenly vulnerable, with a medical condition that, while treatable and shared by millions, can still inspire fear?

Or to dig deeper, might this encounter with illness even change the way John Roberts sees himself, his job or the world?"

She continues:

"Nearly two years ago, after Chief Justice Roberts took the oath of office, he was accompanied down the steps of the court by Justice John Paul Stevens, 35 years his senior. Justice Stevens stumbled slightly, and the waiting crowd held its breath as the new young justice helped him regain his balance. Justice Stevens is still playing golf and tennis. It is John Roberts for whom the country now holds its breath."

Greenhouse draws a contrast between Stevens who is the oldest justice sitting on the bench and Roberts, the youngest justice currently presiding over the Court. It is highly unlikely the majority of the country is even giving a second thought to Roberts and his more than likely 30 year stint to come on the Court.

Greenhouse and the rest of the media need to calm down, relax, and instead of holding their breath for an obviously in-good-health justice, take a deep breath. Perhaps even take a chill pill.

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