Samuel Alito says Dobbs leak made Supreme Court justices 'targets for assassination'      

A pro-choice activist holds up a sign during a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade May 3, 2022, in Washington, D.C. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said the leaking of the draft decision that overturned Roe v. Wade made members of the high court “targets for assassination.”

In May, Politico published a leaked copy of a draft of the opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson that overturned the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. 

At an event hosted by the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Alito, who authored the leaked draft opinion, was asked how the leak impacted the Supreme Court.

It “was a grave betrayal of trust,” Alito said, and an unprecedented “shock” that “certainly changed the atmosphere at the court for the remainder of last term.”

“The leak also made those of us who were thought to be in the majority in support of overruling Roe and [Planned Parenthood v. Casey] targets for assassination, because it gave people a rational reason to think they could prevent that from happening by killing one of us,” said Alito.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito speaks at an event hosted by The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. | Screengrab: YouTube/The Heritage Foundation

Alito cited an incident from early June, before the official release of the Dobbs decision, in which a man was arrested near the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh after making threats against him over his likely support for overturning Roe.

Alito then mentioned that, now that they are in a new term, everyone from the justices to their staff “want things to get back to normal the way they were before all this last term.”

“Get back to normal to the greatest degree possible, and that’s what we hope will happen,” he said. “I think everybody is working on that.”

“During my 16 years on the court, the justices have always gotten along very well on a personal level. I think the public, when they read our opinions, probably misses that.”

Alito also touched on other topics, such as objecting to the claim that the Supreme Court has transformed into “a nakedly partisan institution” that is “illegitimate.”

“Everybody in this country is free to disagree with our decisions, there’s no question about that. Everybody is free to criticize our reasoning and to do it in strong terms,” said Alito.

“But to say that the court is exhibiting a lack of integrity is something quite different. That goes to character. It goes not to agreement or disagreement with the result or the reasoning, it goes to character.”

Alito added that someone “crosses an important line when they say the court is acting in a way that is illegitimate,” believing that such claims should not be “made lightly.”

“That’s not just ordinary criticism, that’s something very different,” he continued.

On the issue of adding justices to the court, often derisively called “court-packing,” Alito noted that the U.S. Constitution does not state a specific size for the Supreme Court and felt that Congress could expand the court.

Nevertheless, Alito asked the rhetorical question that if Congress did add seats to the court, “what would that do to the public perception of our independence and our legitimacy?”

Alito said that whatever number it should be, it should be an odd number to prevent ties, not be too big or too small, and preferred the current number of nine justices.

In addition to the threats made against Supreme Court justices, the news of the leaked draft also sparked several protests, and numerous acts of vandalism against churches and pro-life pregnancy resource centers.

May demonstrations have been held outside the homes of Supreme Court justices who are expected to rule in favor of the Mississippi law, with the members of the high court receiving increased security.

A temporary security fence was also constructed in May around the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., in preparation for any violence should the high court decide to overturn Roe.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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