Assuming the document published by Politico purporting to be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade is real, then the question becomes: How out of the ordinary is it to have a leaked SCOTUS opinion?
Some journalists are saying it is “unprecedented.”
It’s neither ordinary nor unprecedented.
It doesn’t happen often, at least not lately. However, it has happened, at times with some frequency, and definitely on some big cases.
Including, oddly, the original Roe v. Wade decision:
Still, there have been leaks before, though not of the apparent magnitude of the document posted by Politico. In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s David Beckwith reported on the outcome of Roe v. Wade before the decision was published. But because the magazine was a weekly, Beckwith’s scoop arrived just hours before the decision was made public.
And in the late 1970s, ABC’s Tim O’Brien had a half a dozen scoops on rulings. The reports both astonished and upset the justices, according to a book by Barrett McGurn, the court’s former public information officer. It was unclear where O’Brien was getting his information, though then-Chief Justice Warren Burger suspected someone in the court’s print shop, who would have had access to the rulings.
It even happened in the 1857 Dred Scott decision:
University of Georgia professor Jonathan Peters, who has written about leaks at the court, has noted that Roe isn’t the only high-profile case where there’s been a leak. The New York Tribune, for example, published a “running account of the court’s deliberations in Dred Scott,” the infamous 1857 decision that declared African Americans couldn’t be citizens.
“Supreme Court leaks are rare, but they are hardly unprecedented,” Peters wrote in 2012. “The court, just like our other public institutions, is made up of political animals. We shouldn’t be shocked when they act that way.”
As for the (apparent) actual turning over of Roe by the current Supreme Court, I have the same reaction I’ve been having to all of these radical right-wing decisions of the Court now that Alito, Cavanaugh, Coney-Barrett and the rest are firmly in control:
Elections have consequences, and those of us who argued that Hillary Clinton was our best hope of preventing a right-wing Supreme Court resurgence, should feel vindicated yet extremely sad that it has come to this. This court will be turning back progressive gains for many years to come.
Alll the middle and upper class white liberals who argued that there is was little substantive difference during the Clinton-Trump election between Democrats and Republicans, should rest easy in the knowledge that this current Supreme Court is not finished handing down radical right-wing decisions, the effects of which will primarily land on the heads of unions, gig and hourly wage workers, the poor, people of color, and LGBT folk.