Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was a landmark decision from the Supreme Court this past June, overturning the previous abortion precedent of Roe v. Wade and passing abortion regulation back to state legislatures. One of the most controversial decisions in the history of the court is still echoing in the halls of justice.
A leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion was unprecedented and led to dangerous consequences for the justices of SCOTUS>
The leak — which was published by Politico on May 2, 2022 — ultimately led to months-long protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices. In one instance, an armed man was arrested after telling law enforcement that he had traveled to Virginia to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
In July, following weeks of protests taking place in front of Supreme Court Justices’ homes bringing concerns about the Justices’ safety, there was an official investigation into the leak that was ordered by Chief Justice John Roberts, but Gail Curley, the marshal of the Supreme Court, said in January she had been unable to definitively determine the leaker’s identity, as reported by The New York Post.
The DC Examiner reported:
The leak shook the court and had major effects on the safety of the majority opinion judges due to the high-stakes, controversial nature of the decision. “It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us,” Alito said of the threats the Justices faced following the leaks.
We can observe Alito’s concerns having been realized in the Brett Kavanaugh assassination plot that was halted by the FBI in June. The FBI caught the would-be assassin talking about working to “stop roe v wade from being overturned” by “remov[ing] some people from the supreme court,” according to the FBI, as reported by CNN.
This threat to the security of the justice system is unprecedented, and it is unlikely that investigators will stop looking into the threats until information comes to light. In fact, one of the justices has stated that he is still concerned and has formed a theory as to the identity of the leaker.
On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who was responsible for writing the majority opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, revealed that he believes he has a “pretty good idea” of the identity of the leaker behind his draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade this past May, DC Enquirer reported.
Justice Alito says he is also certain of the reasoning behind the leaked Dobbs draft. “I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” Alito told The Wall Street Journal. “It was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft… from becoming the decision of the court.”
While Alito did indicate that he knows who was responsible, he added that is “different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody. ”The longtime conservative justice went on to strongly reject the notion that the opinion was leaked by a conservative judge, calling it “infuriating.” DC Enquirer reported.
As for the actual identity, Justice Alito didn’t directly inform The Wall Street Journal of whom he believed to be responsible for the leak but did push that it wasn’t one of the Justices from the majority opinion. “Look, this made us targets of assassination. Would I do that to myself?” he asked The Wall Street Journal. “Would the five of us have done that to ourselves? It’s quite implausible.”
According to Alito, the leak “created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. We worked through it, and last year we got our work done. This year, I think, we’re trying to get back to normal operations as much as we can. . . . But it was damaging.”
Alito sums up the serious nature of the leak in regard to the justices of the court being protected from public opinion, and rendering their decisions based on constitutional interpretation alone.
“Those of us who were thought to be in the majority, thought to have approved my draft opinion, were really targets of assassination,” Justice Alito said. “It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us.”
Justice Alito just told the Wall Street Journal that "I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody." …https://t.co/wnvayDeQtK
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) April 28, 2023
It’s undeniable that the leak brought untold risk to the Supreme Court Justices’ and their families’ safety. In the past, the insulation of the court from such actions has been respected. The risk to the purpose of the SCOTUS is significant as well. SCOTUS exists to interpret laws through the U.S. Constitution without pressure from popular opinion.
If political pressure or pressure from protest of citizens threaten to intimidate the justices of SCOTUS, then the purpose of the Supreme Court is threatened.