Monday, the day the Supreme Court was expected to start releasing opinions for this year, came and went without the Supreme Court releasing an opinion in the Dobbs case that could overturn the current abortion regime, particularly Roe and Casey, the same case in which Justice Alito’s opinion was leaked.
Fox News, reporting on the Supreme Court’s strange decision not to release the opinion, said:
The Supreme Court Monday did not issue a ruling in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, prolonging for at least one more week the wait for its opinion which is expected to overturn the right to an abortion.
[…]The justices released decisions in multiple cases Monday, but Dobbs was not among them. There’s now approximately a month left in the court’s current term. A ruling in Dobbs is expected to come by either late June or early July.
And what was it that the court released opinions on instead? Seemingly minor issues that, while certainly of note to those involved, pale in comparison to the court deciding to do away with Roe, a tectonic shift in how America treats abortion. Fox, reporting on what the court released opinions on instead, said:
The court ruled in three cases Monday. One was a bankruptcy law case involving a trustee for the defunct tech store Circuit City, another was a Florida-based case on Medicaid and a third was a labor dispute involving Southwest Airlines and a worker who wanted to sue the airline over allegedly lacking overtime wages rather than go to arbitration.
Why the court declined to release its Dobbs opinion was unclear.
On one hand, the delay could signify the court is trying to tighten up every aspect of the opinion because of how controversial its decision to get rid of Roe will be.
On the more worrisome side, it’s potentially possible that Roberts is trying to pressure someone on the conservative side to jump ship and join the opinion that would maintain Roe, though that’s probably not likely, particularly given Roberts’ post-leak statement that “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”
Perhaps most likely is that the court is trying to catch the leakers before releasing the opinion and making the leak less relevant.
The court has ramped up its attempts to find the leaker in recent days, with news coming out that the SCOTUS clerks are having to sign statements pledging that they didn’t leak the statement and let their phones be searched for any information relating to the leak.
CNN’s Joan Biskupic, commenting on the hunt for the leaker, said:
First of all, remember, this is the most important case of this term, the most important case in many years: the potential to roll back a half-century of abortion rights, and privacy rights. Midway through the negotiations over this case, a draft document was leaked, as we all know, it was leaked from last February. So not only did the public see where the court was headed, to roll back Roe v. Wade, but also it so seriously disrupted negotiations among the justices in terms of where they were actually going to head by the end of June. Chief Justice John Roberts launched an unprecedented investigation four weeks ago, four weeks ago today. Apparently, that has made absolutely insufficient progress, I would say, and they have taken this new step to have clerks sign affidavits.
I’m not sure exactly of the wording, but there would be a denial of any responsibility — and also starting to lay the groundwork for obtaining cell phone data. Now, I should tell you that this private draft went to not only the nine justices, their law clerks — each has four apiece — and then probably about a dozen other people in the Supreme Court building, it goes both electronically and hand-delivered to the chambers. You know, a lot more people could have had this inside the courthouse, but then also if anybody brought it home, the potential for other people obtaining it is great. So they’re focusing on law clerks right now, but we don’t know — at least from the outside — whether it would definitely be a law clerk, it would be somebody else, a full-time employee, anybody else who came upon this, unlikely a justice.
It seems unlikely that the court’s decision to not release a Dobbs ruling signifies it has changed its mind on the subject and that Roe won’t be overturned. Still, it’s surprising that the court didn’t rip off the band-aid and release Alito’s opinion when able to do so.