UVA School of Law professor discusses SCOTUS breach

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - While the U.S. Supreme Court is re-evaluating the constitutionality of abortions, professors at the UVA School of Law are unpacking what the breach of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft means for the future.

“A leak of this magnitude has never ever happened,” Douglas Laycock, UVA professor of constitutional law, said.

After Monday night’s initial draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade was made public, calls began for an investigation to uncover who was responsible for the breach of secrecy.

“There are about 80 people, including the justices, law clerks, and secretary printshop employees with regular access to opinions. All 80 of them are suspects, including the justices,” Laycock said.

He says the leak could lead to tension in the court.

“Relations within the court will be more difficult and less trusting for a while, but it’s very hard to predict how that plays out, especially from the outside,” Laycock said.

If the person behind the leak is caught, they’re in for a big punishment. Anyone besides a justice would be fired.

Laycock says the presence of a whistleblower, puts pressure on the deliberation process because votes can and often do change as drafts are circulated.

“A leak in a business case can make millions of dollars change on the stock market. And whoever gets the word first takes advantage of those who didn’t,” Laycock said.

Laycock says opinions are often negotiated and its possible to see one with majority support lose a vote or two as circulation continues.

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