Watch CBS News

Roberts calls leak of draft Supreme Court opinion in abortion case a "betrayal"

Leaked Supreme Court draft threatens Roe v. Wade
Leaked Supreme Court draft threatens Roe v. Wade 05:11

Washington — Chief Justice John Roberts denounced the leak of a draft opinion published by Politico that indicated the court may overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, calling its release a "betrayal of the confidences of the court" and saying he directed the marshal of the court to launch an investigation.

"This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the court and the community of public servants who work here," he said in a statement Tuesday.

Roberts also said efforts to "undermine the integrity" of the Supreme Court's operations will not succeed.

"The work of the court will not be affected in any way," he said. "We at the court are blessed to have a workforce — permanent employees and law clerks alike — intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law. Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the court."

The Supreme Court also confirmed the authenticity of the document, but stressed that the draft does not represent the final decision of the court.

"Although the document described in yesterday's reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," the court said in a statement.

The draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, appears to have been circulated among the justices in February. But votes by the court's members can change as drafts are exchanged, and a decision is not final until it is handed down by the Supreme Court, in this case, by late June or early July.

The statement from the court notes that justices "circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the court's confidential deliberative work."

On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the leak of the draft opinion was an "attack" on the court's independence, and denounced Democrats for "play[ing] into this toxic spectacle."

"Last night's stunning breach was an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court. By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left's ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law," the GOP leader said in a statement.

McConnell said the "lawless" leak "should be investigated and punished as fully as possible," adding that the chief justice "must get to the bottom of it and the Department of Justice must pursue criminal charges if applicable."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.