The leaked draft of a majority Supreme Court decision that seemingly signals the overturning of Roe v. Wade could cause "lasting damage" to the court of Chief Justice John Roberts, legal experts say.

A major unprecedented leak for the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was published by Politico Monday evening and raised alarm among legal experts over public confidence in the Supreme Court as an institution and its ability to conduct its work.

A law professor at Vermont Law School, Jared Carter, told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday the consequences are "terrible for the institution of the court to have draft decisions being leaked."

"Especially on an issue such as this, but my guess is that's exactly why it's been leaked is to perhaps call into question the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court," Carter added, noting the situation surrounding the leak is still highly speculative.


Indeed, the leaking of a draft opinion is unprecedented in recent years but not entirely impossible. For example, the decision in Roe was initially leaked to a Time magazine reporter in January 1973.

Other minor leaks have already occurred in the Supreme Court this term, such as NPR's initial coverage of the "Maskgate" controversy in which the outlet reported Roberts "in some form asked the other justices to mask up" in response to Justice Sonia Sotomayor's COVID-19 concerns. Roberts later disputed the reported request, but it implied an inside knowledge of the high court's daily operations.

Roberts released a separate statement alongside the high court public information office on Tuesday acknowledging the leak, calling for a full investigation by the marshal of the Supreme Court.

Despite Roberts's concerns over the leaked draft opinion, he said the high court work "will not be affected in any way," noting it was a "singular and egregious breach" intended to sow distrust among the "community of public servants who work here."

"He has to say that," professor Jonathan Adler of Case Western University told the Washington Examiner.

"The reality is that the actions of one person to leak this can cast suspicions on a much broader range of people that work. ... It's understandable why the chief would try to rush to the support of the staff and others whose work is essential for the courts functioning," Adler said.

The court noted the draft of the Dobbs opinion is "authentic" but does not constitute the final decision by the high court.

Adler warned that a primary concern surrounding the leak could "undermine deliberation" among the nine high court justices, which comprises what is considered to be a 6-3 conservative-leaning majority.

"A predictable consequence of this will be a Court on which justices are more likely to vote their priors ... it's likely to produce an even more conservative Court," Adler tweeted on Tuesday.

In recent years, favorable views of the high court have dwindled. As of January, just 54% of adults said they held favorable ratings of the Supreme Court, down from 69% in August 2019, according to a February report from the Pew Research Center. The same report also highlighted that 84% of adults said justices "should not bring their political views into decisions."

The leaked draft opinion risks further waning of public confidence if the final opinion in Dobbs differs from what was seen in the draft, which posits giving states the right to determine laws surrounding viability for abortion procedures.

"If what is leaked ends up being different from what the court does, that could certainly affect public opinion about whether or not the court is able to make its decisions independent of political considerations," Adler told the Washington Examiner.

Prior to the high court's Republican-appointed supermajority established under former President Donald Trump, the chief justice was often viewed as the swing vote and a toss-up as to whether he would side with the court's more liberal or conservative wings.

Roberts notably drew the ire from Republicans for being the deciding vote in 2012 to uphold Obamacare and voting with the court's liberal wing to uphold former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy for "Dreamers." Since the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, Roberts has no longer been needed to gain the five votes required for a majority opinion.

Among what is considered the blockbuster case of the present term, Dobbs is only the beginning of major cases the court has yet to determine. Another impactful case looms over the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which challenges a long-standing state law requiring residents to demonstrate a "proper cause" for obtaining a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver.


In November, the court's 6-3 Republican-appointed majority appeared sympathetic to plaintiffs' claims over New York's restrictive gun laws.

A final decision over the Dobbs case could come anytime between now and the end of June, which has prompted the high court to speak out and reaffirm the drafted text is by no means final.