Chief justice calls for investigation into Roe opinion leak


(NewsNation) — Following the uproar over a leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, Chief Justice John Roberts directed the marshal of the court to investigate.

Politico first published the report Monday, saying it received a copy of the almost 100-page draft opinion from a person familiar with the court’s proceedings” in the Mississippi case from which the opinion comes. Mississippi is one of several states to enact a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Multiple experts NewsNation spoke to, including a former Supreme Court law clerk, said these draft opinions circulate among justices, clerks and secretaries, all of whom will likely be questioned over the leak.

“Any of the chambers would have had access to this draft opinion,” Paul Schiff Berman, a lawyer and professor at The George Washington University School of Law, told “Rush Hour” Tuesday.

If investigators identify the person who gave the draft opinion to Politico, one expert said they could be fired and blacklisted from future law jobs. The expert doesn’t believe they will face criminal charges, however.

Many believe the investigation will, in the next few days and weeks, zero in on the system for accessing these draft opinion documents, potentially bringing an overhaul to the training and technology within the system currently in use.

“This is an unprecedented leak, so I don’t think there’s a playbook for this,” Jared Carter of Cornell University Law told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Tuesday.

“Hopefully they put in place measures, whether that’s technology measures or training,” Carter added.

Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973, legalized abortion nationwide. Should it be officially overturned, states would get to decide whether to ban abortion. Many Democratic politicians, such as President Joe Biden, decried the Supreme Court’s draft opinion, saying it is “radical” and threatens “other basic rights.” Republicans, on the other hand, criticized the leak of information itself, saying it is evidence of hostility toward conservative views.

No matter who leaked the information, its impact has already been significant, as nothing like this has happened to the Supreme Court before.

Berman says it hurts the court’s institutional credibility.

“It makes the court look and feel like just another political entity,” he said. “Institutional legitimacy is everything for a court and if we lose that, we lose yet another pillar of our liberal democracy.”

Roberts, in a statement confirming the authenticity of the draft opinion, said the work of the court will not be affected in any way by the leak.

“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” he said.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska had similarly strong words about the leak, saying it rocked her confidence in the court, according to The Hill.

“The leak is absolutely reprehensible and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” she said. “I really find it shocking that this would happen. I understand it is unprecedented.”

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