Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito canceled an appearance at an upcoming judicial conference, two days after a draft decision he authored leaked to Politico, showing the body is poised to overturn the landmark abortion protections in Roe v. Wade.
Reuters first reported that Alito was set to appear at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ judicial conference this week. The event hosts judges from the region, which encompasses Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, with Alito being the justice assigned to hear any emergency appeals from the 5th Circuit.
Patricia McCabe, the court’s spokesperson, confirmed to the outlet that Alito would not be attending but gave no further information about why he had canceled.
Alito, a member of the court’s six-justice conservative bloc, authored the draft majority opinion, which excoriates the 1973 Roe decision, calling it “egregiously wrong from the start.”
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled … It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” the draft reads.
The court’s official ruling on the matter is only final when published, and justices can change their votes up until that point (expected to be in June). But Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the draft was authentic on Tuesday, sparking national condemnation from Democrats and civil rights advocates.
The fact that the draft opinion leaked at all is shocking, and it’s extremely rare to get an insight into the court’s thinking before an opinion is published. Roberts has vowed to investigate the leak, saying it amounted to a “betrayal.”
Reuters notes that Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas were expected to speak at a similar event for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, although it’s unclear if they planned to attend. The circuit conferences are the first in-person events since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.