Justice Samuel Alito said that he has a “pretty good idea” who was responsible for the unprecedented disclosure of a draft opinion of a Supreme Court ruling last year, suggesting it was someone who opposed reversing the Roe v. Wade precedent that protected abortion rights nationwide.
In an interview published Friday by The Wall Street Journal in its opinion section, Alito dismissed the idea that the draft was leaked by one of the five conservative justices who were in the majority of the ruling.
“That’s infuriating to me,” Alito said of the speculation. “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 acknowledged in the interview, which took place in mid-April, that he didn’t have the level of proof about who was behind the leak that would make it appropriate to name the person he thinks was responsible. The final opinion overturning Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization largely tracked with the draft.
“It was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft … from becoming the decision of the court,” Alito said. “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.”
Alito has previously condemned the leak, as have other justices. The Supreme Court in a January statement called the disclosure a “grave assault on the judicial process.”
The statement was issued with a public version of a report summarizing the investigation into the leak conducted by the marshal of the court, Gail Curley. The release said that the investigative team had “to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Politico obtained and published the draft in early May, several weeks before the court released the final opinion at the end of its term.
In his latest comments to the Journal, Alito said the marshal “did a good job with the resources that were available to her” and agreed with her decision not to publicly identify a culprit. He condemned the threats and hostility facing the court, including an alleged assassination attempt against Justice Brett Kavanaugh last summer.
Alito took swipes in the interview at those he said have criticized the court “unfairly,” and he griped about how some pockets of the legal profession were playing a role in the criticism rather than defending the high court.
“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, adding, “If anything, they’ve participated to some degree in these attacks.”
Alito declined to weigh in on the public scrutiny that Justice Clarence Thomas is under for alleged ethical lapses, but he defended the way Kavanaugh handled accusations during his confirmation process that he, as a high schooler, sexually assaulted a teenage girl.
“After Justice Kavanaugh was accused of being a rapist during his Senate confirmation hearings, he made an impassioned speech, made an impassioned scene, and he was criticized because it was supposedly not judicious, not the proper behavior for a judge to speak in those terms. I don’t know – if somebody calls you a rapist?” Alito said.