U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts has directed the marshal of the Supreme Court to launch an investigation to determine the source of the leak of its draft opinion on its pending Roe v. Wade case to Politico.
In a statement on May 3, the nation’s top court confirmed the majority draft opinion was authentic but said it did “not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”
The statement also said the circulation of draft opinions internally was a “routine and essential” part of its “confidential deliberative work.”
Roberts described the leak as a betrayal of the confidences of the Court that intended to undermine the integrity of its operations.
But he said it would not succeed.
“The work of the Court will not be affected in any way,” Roberts said in the statement.
“We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce—permanent employees and law clerks alike—intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law.
“Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court.
“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,” he said.
Politico said it received a copy of the draft opinion from a person familiar with the court’s proceedings in a pending challenge to a Mississippi abortion law, along with other details supporting the authenticity of the document.
Penned by Justice Samuel Alito, the leaked majority draft opinion suggested that SCOTUS had decided to throw out Roe v. Wade, the seminal precedent that made abortion in the first trimester lawful throughout the entire United States in 1973.
In the 67-page opinion published on May 2 by Politico, labeled as “the opinion of the Court,” Alito writes: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it would return the regulation of abortion to the states—about half of which have indicated an intent of banning or limiting abortions.
Several states have recently limited abortions with the latest being Oklahoma on May 3 with Gov. Kevin Stitt signing into law a bill banning abortion after cardiac activity is detected, which is usually at six weeks of pregnancy. The law is modeled after a similar Texas law which has withstood legal challenges since it took effect in September 2021.
Meanwhile, the SCOTUS leak has resulted in demonstrations by pro-abortion activists and supporters, and moved a swathe of Democrats, who have long supported Roe, to speak out against it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the SCOTUS move an “abomination” and “one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said the move to overturn Roe v. Wade would represent a “fundamental shift in American jurisprudence.”
But for his part, Biden said, in answer to a reporter’s question about what the SCOTUS move means for the midterms, that he hadn’t “thought that through yet.”
Colonel Gail A. Curley, who became Marshal of the Supreme Court in June 2021, is the 11th marshal and the second woman to hold the position, will now oversee the investigation into the source of the leak of the majority draft opinion.
Curley, who comes with extensive relevant experience in the military, serves as the court’s chief security officer, facilities administrator, and manages around 260 employees, including the Supreme Court Police Force, which provides security for the justices, court staff, visitors, the building, and surrounding grounds.