Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Thursday that this week’s unprecedented leak of a draft opinion is “absolutely appalling,” CNN reported.
Roberts, who was speaking at a meeting of lawyers and judges at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference in Atlanta, reportedly said he hoped “one bad apple” would not change “people’s perception” of the Supreme Court, which is typically one of the most closely guarded institutions of government.
It would be “foolish” for the leaker to think their actions will affect how the court functions, Roberts said at his first public appearance since Politico published a leaked draft of the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Monday evening. He confirmed the following day that the draft, which indicates the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, is legitimate but not final.
Few people could be the source of the leak. The circle of people who had access to the draft is limited to the justices, their law clerks and their support staff. High-profile Republicans have pointed fingers at liberal law clerks, arguing they may be hoping to somehow change the outcome of the decision by enraging the public. Other court-watchers have posited that it makes more sense for the leak to have come from the conservative side, as it may help lock in the justices’ votes.
The draft authored by Justice Samuel Alito, which concerns an abortion ban out of Mississippi, revealed that the nine-member court is prepared to end federal abortion protections. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett all plan to join Alito’s opinion, according to Politico.
Roberts’ views on the case were not revealed in the leak.