Supreme Court’s Alito says abortion draft leak made justices ‘targets’

On Tuesday, Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court denounced the ongoing controversy over legitimacy in the institution amid backlash over its decision last June on abortion. He said such criticism focuses more on “character” than on the court’s decisions.

Alito spoke at an event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank in Washington. He also condemned the leak of his draft opinion last May overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. Alito said it made the justices “targets.”

The comments were made by the justice who wrote the June ruling officially overturning Roe. This was amid intense scrutiny of the court, including other court decisions, such as the abortion decision.

The legitimacy of the court with a conservative majority of 6-3 judges is largely dependent on public acceptance that it is an institution whose actions are grounded on the law and not on political preferences. According to polls, the court’s approval rating has fallen to an all-time low.

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Alito didn’t name liberal Justice Elena Kagan. However, Alito has expressed concern in recent weeks at events in Chicago and September when she stated that the legitimacy of the court could be threatened if Americans start to see its members as trying impose their personal preferences on society. In a University of Pennsylvania discussion last week, she repeated these comments.

Alito stated that anyone is allowed to criticize the court’s decisions and the reasoning behind them. Alito said, “But to claim that the court lacks integrity is quite another. This is a matter of character and not disagreement with the outcome or reasoning.

Alito said, “Someone crosses an important line when he or she claims that the court is acting illegally.” This claim should not be made lightly by anyone in authority.

Alito spoke bluntly about the man arrested in June near the Maryland home conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh and charged with attempted murder.

Alito stated that the leak of his draft opinion made conservative justices, who were at the time thought to be backing Roe v. Wade, “targets for execution because it gave people a rational basis to believe they could prevent that happening by killing one.”

As the court moves on a rightward trajectory, the conservative majority has been more open to taking on divisive issues.

The court’s new term began Oct. 3 and promises to be equally consequential. Major rulings could result in the end of affirmative action policies that colleges and universities use to increase campus diversity. They may also weaken a federal law called The Voting Rights Act and make it easier to deny service to LGBT persons based on freedom-of-speech rights.

Ketanji Jackson, President Joe Biden’s most recent appointee, has joined Kagan as well as Sonia Sotomayor at the court’s liberal bloc.