Last night, the U.S. Supreme Court entered one of the most explosive moments of its long history. As most of the nation was settling in for the night, Politico dropped a bomb—a story based on a leaked document purporting to be authored by Justice Samuel Alito. That document appeared to be a draft of the court’s forthcoming opinion in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That draft revealed a sweeping decision that would strike down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in a comprehensive repudiation and utterly transform abortion law in the nation. Clearly, that draft was also leaked in a subversive attempt to undermine or marginalize the court’s decision and perhaps to divide its majority before any decision can be announced.
The release of this draft is dirty pool and horribly unethical. No such breach of the court’s prized confidentiality and protocol—complete with a draft majority opinion—has happened in the modern era. Understandably, most observers assume that the draft was leaked by someone with both access and an ax to grind. The stakes are unbelievably high. As SCOTUSblog commented last night on Twitter, “It is impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.”