Justice Alito Claims He Has 'Pretty Good Idea' Who Dobbs Leaker Is - Sabotage Created Rift in SCOTUS
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said he thinks he knows who leaked the draft decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling — and he has guessed the motive as well.
Last May, a draft of the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was made public, a rare breach of court security. The leak produced protests and led to threats against justices. An official inquiry into the leak did not name anyone as the leaker.
“I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” Alito said in an interview published by The Wall Street Journal.
There is less doubt about the motive.
“It was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft … from becoming the decision of the court. And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside—as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court,” he said.
The leak “created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. We worked through it, and last year we got our work done. This year, I think, we’re trying to get back to normal operations as much as we can. … But it was damaging,” he said.
Conservative justices became targets as a result of the leak.
“Those of us who were thought to be in the majority, thought to have approved my draft opinion, were really targets of assassination. It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us,” he said.
Alito said theories that conservatives leaked the document were “infuriating to me.”
“Look, this made us targets of assassination. Would I do that to myself? Would the five of us have done that to ourselves? It’s quite implausible,” he said.
Since the leak, he said justices are now well-guarded.
“I don’t feel physically unsafe, because we now have a lot of protection,” he said, adding that he was “driven around in basically a tank, and I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself without the tank and my members of the police force.”
The Dobbs decision triggered a round of often violent anti-court protests that troubles Alito.
“We are being hammered daily, and I think quite unfairly in a lot of instances. And nobody, practically nobody, is defending us. The idea has always been that judges are not supposed to respond to criticisms, but if the courts are being unfairly attacked, the organized bar will come to their defense,” he said, noting the legal profession has “participated to some degree in these attacks.”
The criticism continues. In early April, Columbia law school students triggered an outpouring of anger when their visit to Justice Brett Kavanaugh was publicized, according to Fox News.
Kavanaugh had also been the target of an armed man arrested last year near Kavanaugh’s home.
Amid the attacks, faith in government is unraveling, Alito said, noting that critics have said, “‘Look how unpopular they are. Look how low their approval rating has sunk.’ Well, yeah, what do you expect when you’re—day in and day out, ‘They’re illegitimate. They’re engaging in all sorts of unethical conduct. They’re doing this, they’re doing that?’”
Such conduct “undermines confidence in the government,” Alito said.
“It’s one thing to say the court is wrong; it’s another thing to say it’s an illegitimate institution. You could say the same thing about Congress and the president. … When you say that they’re illegitimate, any of the three branches of government, you’re really striking at something that’s essential to self-government,” he said.
Alito opposes the liberal plan to expand the court to ensure that its current conservative majority becomes a minority.
“To change the size of the court just because you want to change the result in cases—that would destroy it. You want to talk about our legitimacy? That would destroy the perception that we’re anything other than a political body,” he said.
He said the court cannot rule based on public opinion.
“This is not a situation in which the right thing to do is different from the expedient thing to do, at least in the long term,” he said, adding that Americans “will have reason to question our legitimacy if they see that what we are doing is not following the Constitution and the laws, but we’ve got our finger to the wind and we’re issuing decisions that nobody really believes represent our sincere thinking about the law, but are structured in a way to curry favor, avoid controversy or something like that.”
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