The release of a draft Supreme Court judgment reversing the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision reveals a once-stout body creaking under strain as its more assertive conservative majority seeks to upend the law on a variety of critical issues.
The court’s hard-won status as the government’s mature branch is eroding. The draft’s release was the latest in a long line of disputes that have engulfed the court, which is supposed to be apolitical.
Democrats have chastised conservative Justice Clarence Thomas for his wife, Ginni Thomas, who has been an active supporter of Conservative former President Donald Trump, including his attempts to reverse his election loss in 2020 based on bogus accusations of massive electoral fraud.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, also one among three Trump who helped build the high court 6-3 conservative majority, garnered attention in January when he was the only individual inside the courthouse who didn’t wear a mask during the Omicron coronavirus outbreak. The court also took a long time to confirm liberal Justice Stephen Breyer’s expected retirement, requiring a full day after the news broke in January, per a report.
According to Carolyn Shapiro of Chicago-Kent College of Law, who once worked as a Breyer clerk, the extraordinary release of a drafted decision that would reverse an almost 50-year-old rule contributes to a feeling that all is not well within the court’s marble corridors.
“It clearly appears that the institution’s long-standing norms are under serious strain,” Shapiro said. “It appears that the divisiveness that we are seeing in the country can also be felt in the court.”
The identity of the leaker has not been revealed. Only a few persons, including the nine justices’ legal clerks, court administrative employees, and the justices themselves, have access to such drafted opinions.
On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts declared an internal investigation.
“This violation of the court’s confidences will not succeed to the degree that it was meant to harm the integrity of our operations,” Roberts stated.