Legal scholars speculate over partisan motivations behind SCOTUS opinion leak

The nation was stunned Monday when Politico released a draft majority opinion appearing to reveal an impending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, and according to a number of prominent legal scholars, the leaker of the document almost certainly acted out of highly destructive partisan motives and deserves to be held accountable.

As significant of a story as the draft opinion’s existence certainly was and is, high-profile court watchers quickly pointed out that the leak itself represented a staggering and virtually unprecedented breach of protocol and began speculating about the potentially nefarious motivation behind it.

Longtime Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz – himself an opponent of overturning Roe – appeared on Fox News’ Hannity soon after the story broke and declared, “I think this was leaked bv a liberal law clerk who was trying to change the outcome of the case, either by putting pressure on some of the justices to change their mind, or by getting Congress to pack the court even before June…or to get Congress to pass a national right-to-abortion law… .”

Speaking to the profound seriousness of the situation, Dershowitz added, “it can only be done if someone things this is an act of civil disobedience, an act which might get him disbarred, fired from the Supreme Court, or her, if it’s a law clerk. And yet they want to go to the mat because they think there’s one chance to preserve Roe v. Wade, and that’s by leaking this decision to Politico.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) concurred with Dershowitz on the gravity of the situation, and took things even further, saying, according to the Deseret News, “To violate an understanding that has held for the entire modern history of the court – seeking to place outside pressure on the court and the justices themselves – is dangerous, despicable and damaging.”

GOP Rep. Chris Stewart, also of Utah, characterized the leak as “a blatant attempt to severely damage” the independence of the nation’s highest court, adding that it “must be immediately investigated, and the leaker should be prosecuted.”

George Washington University Law School professor and legal scholar Jonathan Turley took a similarly dim view of the perpetrator of the leak, calling his or her actions, according to Fox News, “an unspeakably unethical act” he says is a sign of the current times. “We’re living in an age of rage where nothing seems inviolate anymore, no principle seems sacred, and it makes some of us feel almost naive.”

Speaking to whether he believes the culprit’s identity will eventually be unmasked, Turley said, “It’s going to take a lot to get to the bottom of this. Yes, it’s a small institution. It’s a small number of people that are likely involved. But whoever did this likely took steps to hide their tracks.”

Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday confirmed the authenticity of the draft opinion and announced that he has asked the Supreme Court marshal to initiate an investigation of the leak. “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” he pledged, but whether any real consequences follow when and if the offender is identified, only time will tell.