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Tipsheet

Justice Alito Shares How SCOTUS Leak Affected the Court

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Months after an unprecedented leak shattered the trust shared among Supreme Court justices and their clerks, Justice Samuel Alito — who authored the Court's majority opinion in the Dobbs case, a draft of which was leaked to Politico — explained the impact that leak had on the highest court in the land and what he wishes the public understood about the relationships among justices.

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"It was a grave betrayal of trust by somebody, and it was a shock because nothing like that had happened in the past," Justice Alito said of the leak in his remarks at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation. "So it certainly changed the atmosphere at the Court for the remainder of last term," Alito explained.

"The leak also made those of us who were thought to be in the majority — in support of overruling Roe and Casey — targets for assassination because it gave people a rational reason to think they could prevent that from happening by killing one of us," Alito added. "And we know that a man has been charged with attempting to kill Justice Kavanaugh," the justice continued of the terror that faced those shown in the leak to be voting to strike down the Court's previous and flawed rulings on abortion. "It's a pending case, so I won't say anything more about that," Alito noted.

"But that was last term, now we're in a new term," Alito continued. "I think that all of us — all of the justices and I think the people who work in the building, we have a wonderful staff by way of that — want things to get back to normal the way they were before all this last term, before COVID," he explained. "Get back to normal to the greatest degree possible — that's what we hope will happen, I think everybody is working on that," Alito said of the Court's current work that began anew in October despite the fact that the leaker has not yet been identified, as far as the public knows. 

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"During my 16 years on the Court, the justices have always gotten along very well on a personal level," Alito said turning to what may be flawed perceptions of the relationships among the Court's lifetime appointees. "I think the public, when they read our opinions, probably misses that," he said. 

"We sometimes, you can see by reading those opinions, we sometimes disagree pretty passionately about the law," Alito continued. "And we have not, in recent years, been all that restrained about the terms in which we express our disagreement — I'm as guilty as others probably on this score — but none of that is personal," he noted. "And that is something that I think, I wish the public understood."

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