Justice Alito says leak of abortion opinion makes majority ‘targeted for assassination’


Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. said Tuesday that his draft opinion leaked to overturn Roe v. Wade Made most of his colleagues “assassination targets” by the U.S. Supreme Court.

He said the leaks last spring before the courts struck down the nation’s abortion rights were “a horrific betrayal of trust by someone.” He added that the threat to the judge was not theoretical because it “gives people reasonable grounds to think they could have prevented this from happening by killing one of us.”

He noted that a man was charged with attempting to kill Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was overturned by a majority. roeAuthorities said the California man, who was arrested near the judge’s home before the final opinion was released, was disturbed by the leaked draft.

Alito’s remarks at a Heritage Foundation event touched on criticism of the court, the relationship between the justices and proposals to expand the Supreme Court. His comments come as opinion polls show public support for the court has dropped to a record low after a conservative majority allowed greater restrictions on abortion, expanded gun rights and limited the government’s powers to fight climate change .

Asked about criticism that the court strayed too far from public sentiment and could be partisan in overturning precedent, Alito said he had no problem with the public, the media and academics criticizing the legal reasoning in the court’s ruling. But he took issue with those who questioned the court’s legitimacy.

“It’s quite different to say the court has shown a lack of integrity. It’s about character, not about disagreement with results or reasoning. It’s about character,” Alito said.

The justices did not name any of their colleagues, nor did the interviewer, John G. Malcolm of the Heritage Foundation, but both explicitly referred to the comments of Justice Elena Kagan, who was in Court objected as landmark overturned roe Decide. Kagan told a July law conference that the court’s legitimacy is threatened when long-standing precedent is thrown out and the court’s actions are seen as a motivation for a change in the justices’ personnel.

“When someone says the court acted in an unlawful way, they also cross an important line. I don’t think anyone in a position of authority should make that claim lightly,” Alito said. “It’s not just ordinary criticism. It’s a very different thing.”

Even as he took some responsibility for the sharp, warm language in the court’s opinion and dissent, Alito stressed that the justices “have been getting along very well on a personal level” and are eager to “change” in the wake of coronavirus restrictions and “changes.” Back to normal. “Following the unprecedented leak last spring, the atmosphere on the pitch.

“In recent years, we haven’t been so restrained on terms that express our differences. I’m as guilty as anyone else in this regard,” Alito said, but “none of these are personal.”

Responding to a question about the proposed expansion of the Supreme Court, Alito said the number of justices would be determined by Congress. President Biden convened a bipartisan committee of legal scholars to review possible changes to the high court, which now has three liberals and six conservatives, in response to Democrats’ calls to restore ideological “balance” in the court. That includes three judges selected by President Donald Trump. The committee’s report described divisions over the proposal to add judges.

Alito said on Tuesday that the court should not be so big that its work becomes unwieldy, and warned against making changes for political reasons.

“If Congress were to change the size of the court, and the public thought the reason for changing the size of the court was to influence the decisions of future cases,” Alito asked. “What effect does this have on public perceptions of our independence and legitimacy?”

Robert Barnes contributed to this report.

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