New reports suggest that Chief Justice John Roberts lobbied hard to prevent the more conservative members of the Supreme Court — namely Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — from voting to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Roberts ultimately voted with the six-justice majority upholding a new Mississippi abortion law — capping abortions at 15 weeks — in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, but joined the four-justice minority in voting to uphold Roe. However, he did pen his own dissenting opinion stating that he would have opened the door for states to impose stricter limits on abortions, particularly after the first trimester.
And according to recent reporting, Roberts worked diligently to bring the conservative justices around — until someone leaked an early opinion draft indicating the landmark abortion case, along with the subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey, could be in danger.
CNN reported that Roberts had been focused on swaying the two newest justices — Kavanaugh and Barrett — but that he had been derailed somewhat when the leaked draft, authored by Justice Alito, became public.
“Roberts’ persuasive efforts, difficult even from the start, were thwarted by the sudden public nature of the state of play,” the report stated. “He can usually work in private, seeking and offering concessions, without anyone beyond the court knowing how he or other individual justices have voted or what they may be writing.”
The report also concluded that Roberts’ efforts, however fervent, did not appear to be moving the needle with regard to Kavanaugh and Barrett even before the leak — and added that if threats against their families was not enough to sway them from their position, it was unlikely the Chief Justice would have been successful.
CNN’s “New Day” covered the topic on Tuesday morning as well:
New CNN reporting from @JoanBiskupic: Chief Justice John Roberts privately lobbied his fellow conservative justices to preserve Roe v. Wade – but the unprecedented leak of the draft opinion may have doomed his efforts. pic.twitter.com/g0fKkIT14f
— New Day (@NewDay) July 26, 2022
A number of critics followed the decision overturning Roe with accusations against Kavanaugh and Barrett specifically, claiming that they had lied during their Senate confirmation hearings when they stated that the 1973 decision was “precedent.”
But both also declined to answer any questions about how they might vote in future cases — as those questions were rooted in hypotheticals — and precedents have been overturned in the past when the law was later found to be unjust. Examples of those include Plessy v. Ferguson — which allowed racial segregation under the banner of “separate but equal” and was later overturned in Brown v. Board of Education — and Korematsu v. United States, under which Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in internment camps while the United States battled the Empire of Japan in World War II.