Year after year, in major case after major case, there’s little beyond what the justices say during oral arguments that suggests how they will rule until they actually do.
That is, apparently, until Monday evening when Politico published what it said is a draft of an opinion in a major abortion case that was argued in the fall. FOX News reports the draft leak obtained by Politico was written in early February. On Tuesday morning, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed its authenticity and ordered an investigation.
"Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," he said Tuesday.
Analysts have suggested the leak may represent an attempt to pressure a Supreme Court justice to change his or her vote on the pivotal case.
Until an official opinion is signed and released by the Court, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. Drafts circulate and change, as do votes. Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, abortions would be left for the states to decide.
In Florida, the reaction has been split when it comes to the leak, with both sides of the political aisle offering strong opinions since Monday evening.
U.S. Senator Marcio Rubio:
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Friend:
U.S. Senator Rick Scott:
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist:
This all comes as Florida recently passed its own legislation banning any abortion after the 15-week point of pregnancy, making exceptions for fatal abnormalities or if the mother's life is at risk.
Florida's new law is almost identical to Mississippi's law which also bans abortions after 15 weeks but without any exceptions. That same law is at the center of the Supreme Court's current debate on whether to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Now., despite all the reactions from lawmakers in Florida, Gov Ron Desantis has yet to release a statement.
Florida's abortion law will go into effect July 1.
The leaked draft says that a majority of the court is prepared to overrule the landmark 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion nationwide. A decision in the case had been expected before the court begins its summer recess in late June or early July, so it could be more than a month before the court actually issues a final opinion. If the court does what the draft suggests, the ruling would upend a nearly 50-year-old decision; its advance publication would also disturb an almost unbroken tradition of secrecy at the court.
Part of the reason the Supreme Court has historically been so leak-proof is that only a handful of people have access to decisions before they’re published. That includes the justices themselves and the small group of people who work for them. The justices’ clerks, young lawyers who work for the justices for a year and who would be among those who could see a draft opinion, sign pledges of confidentiality.
Still, there have been leaks before, though not of the apparent magnitude of the document posted by Politico. In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s David Beckwith reported on the outcome of Roe v. Wade before the decision was published. But because the magazine was a weekly, Beckwith’s scoop arrived just hours before the decision was made public.
And in the late 1970s, ABC’s Tim O’Brien had a half a dozen scoops on rulings. The reports both astonished and upset the justices, according to a book by Barrett McGurn, the court’s former public information officer. It was unclear where O’Brien was getting his information, though then-Chief Justice Warren Burger suspected someone in the court’s print shop, who would have had access to the rulings.
It was similarly unclear who might have leaked the apparent draft to Politico or what their motivations might be. The news outlet said only that it had "received a copy of the draft opinion from a person familiar with the court’s proceedings ... along with other details supporting the authenticity of the document."
University of Georgia professor Jonathan Peters, who has written about leaks at the court, has noted that Roe isn’t the only high-profile case where there’s been a leak. The New York Tribune, for example, published a "running account of the court’s deliberations in Dred Scott," the infamous 1857 decision that declared African Americans couldn’t be citizens.
"Supreme Court leaks are rare, but they are hardly unprecedented," Peters wrote in 2012. "The court, just like our other public institutions, is made up of political animals. We shouldn’t be shocked when they act that way."
The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report