The unprecedented leak of a draft opinion showing the court was preparing to overturn the landmark ruling that protected abortion as a constitutional right solidified the votes of anyone who might have been wavering, Joan Biskupic’s reported in her forthcoming book, Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court’s Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences.
When the justices heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in December 2021, the conservative majority appeared ready to uphold the Mississippi law outlawing abortion after 15 weeks and effectively overturning Roe. Justice Samuel Alito was tasked with writing a draft opinion reflecting the court’s position, which would have been circulated for the justices to assess and determine whether they would sign on or dissent.
While justices can change their position and their vote on a ruling before and after an opinion is circulated, Biskupic reported that once Alito’s draft opinion was leaked last May, the justices who were leaning toward overturning Roe determined they wouldn’t falter.
Biskupic reported the draft opinion was sent to justices in February, but when it was released in May, the debate stopped.
After months of investigation into the leak, the court said it could not determine who released the draft opinion to the press.
Lawmakers were not satisfied with the court’s investigation, and Republicans have floated the idea of opening an investigation themselves.
Criticism of the court’s investigation exploded weeks after its report was released when it was revealed the court failed to disclose a financial relationship it had with Michael Chertoff, who independently validated the report.