Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito last spring in Roe v. He called the leak of his draft opinion overturning Wade a “gross betrayal” and a “shocker,” saying it put the lives of some conservative Supreme Court justices at risk.
In his broadest and most direct comments to date on the leak, Alito said he made judges who he believed to be the majority “targets for assassination” because they gave some people reason to think they could prevent him from being released. the last opinion “from what happens when one of us dies”. He also noted that officials have charged a man with trying to kill Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
He didn’t offer an update on the leak investigation, but his comments suggested the court still doesn’t know who breached its inner sanctum.
The leak “undoubtedly changed the atmosphere of the court for the last term”, the justice said, but after the start of the new term, the judges wanted to “get back to normal”.
“And we hope that will happen,” Alito said at an appearance at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He confirmed that although the judges do not always agree on paper, “on a personal level they have always gotten along very well”.
But at the same hearing, Alito suggested he disagreed with public comments made by his liberal colleagues questioning the court’s legitimacy.
When asked about the comments made by “a colleague” during the summer break, Alito defended the court.
“Every person in this country is free to disagree with our decisions,” he said, and “there’s no question about that.”
“But to say that the court is showing a lack of integrity is a very different matter of character,” he said.
“It crosses an important line,” Alito said, when someone says a court is “acting illegally.” The comments echoed a statement Justice gave to The Wall Street Journal in September.
“I don’t think anyone in a position of authority should make that claim lightly,” he said. “That’s not a common criticism, it’s very different,” he added.
Alito didn’t directly refer to his colleagues, but during the summer recess, Justice Elena Kagan talked about how overturning precedent was a factor that could call into question the court’s legitimacy.
“I think judges create legitimacy problems for themselves, undermining their legitimacy, when they don’t act like courts and don’t know the things that are the law,” he told an audience in New York.
Last week, Kagan spoke again about the importance of respecting precedent. Without citing Roe and speaking generally, he said, “You know, people depend on the law. People rely on the law.”
“You know when you give people a right, and then you take it right away. Well, in the meantime, they have understood their lives in a different way”, he said in front of the audience at the University of Pennsylvania.
In his remarks Tuesday, Alito spoke in general terms about overturning precedent and respecting the legal doctrine of “stare decisis,” which means “standing by things that have been decided.” He said that while it is “not an impossible mandate”, it remains “important”.
“We follow precedent for the most part,” he said.
Alito’s comments included landmark cases on voting rights and the environment in which the justices have already met in the first session of the new term.
In October, they’ll take on two cases of dramatic consequence on whether colleges and universities can continue to use race as an admissions factor to improve diversity. The challengers are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the precedent, which has been on the books for decades.