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Supreme Court to investigate leak of abortion opinion

Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C.
Dan McCaleb | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday that a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on an abortion rights case was an "egregious breach" of trust and would be investigated.

"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," Roberts said in a statement. "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."

Roberts directed the Marshal of the Court to investigate the source of the leak of the draft opinion, which Politico published Monday night. In the draft opinion, five of the court's more conservative justices wrote that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that said a woman's right to an abortion was protected by the U.S. constitution, was in error and must be overturned.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett signed on to the opinion, according to Politico. All were nominated by Republican presidents.

"We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," the justices wrote in a draft deciding Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, a lawsuit initiated in Mississippi, according to Politico. "The constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely – the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."

The decision was “egregiously wrong from the start” and must be overturned in its entirety, the justices wrote in the leaked draft.

Roberts said if the leak was intended to undermine the court's process, it would not succeed.

"To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed," the chief justice said. "The work of the Court will not be affected in any way."

The Supreme Court in a separate statement confirmed the draft opinion is authentic but not final.

"Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," the court said in its own statement.