Court Battles

Chief Justice Roberts orders probe into Supreme Court leak

Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday directed the marshal of the Supreme Court to launch an investigation into the source of a leaked draft opinion showing that a majority of justices were poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here,” Roberts said in a press release that verified the authenticity of the document published Monday evening by Politico. 

The draft opinion, authored by the staunch conservative Justice Samuel Alito, would effectively eliminate abortion protections at the federal level and hand authority over abortion access to the states. According to Politico, the opinion had the support of fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as former President Trump’s three nominees: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The Supreme Court’s statement Tuesday noted that the draft opinion does not represent the “final position of any member on the issues in the case.” Justices’ votes are often fluid up to the point of an opinion’s publication, and an official ruling in the case could come any time over the next two months.

At issue is a Mississippi law that bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The deeply conservative state had urged the justices to use the law as a vehicle to overturn the landmark 1973 decision in Roe, which first recognized a constitutional right to abortion and prohibits states from banning abortion prior to fetal viability, around 23 weeks.

The leak of the draft document overturning Roe marked one of the most stunning breaches of secrecy in the court’s history. But Roberts, in his Tuesday statement, sought to downplay its long-term impact on the court’s operations.

“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” Roberts wrote. “The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”

Updated at 11:43 a.m.

Tags Abortion Clarence Thomas Donald Trump John Roberts Roe v. Wade Samuel Alito Supreme Court

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