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Alito: Supreme Court justices ‘targets for assassination’ after abortion ruling leak

Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. poses during a group photograph at the Supreme Court building on June 1, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
November 01, 2022

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said, during an interview last week, that the leak of his draft majority opinion overturning the landmark Roe v Wade abortion case was a “grave betrayal of trust” by the leaker and made the court’s justices “targets for assassination.”

“It was a grave betrayal of trust by somebody,” Alito said in an Oct. 25 interview with the Heritage Foundation. “And it was a shock because nothing like that had happened in the past. So it certainly changed the atmosphere at the court for the remainder of last term.”

“The leak also made those of us who were thought to be in the majority and supportive of overruling Roe and Casey targets for assassination because it gave people a rational reason to think they could prevent that from happening by killing one of us,” Alito added.

On May 2, Politico published the leaked contents of a draft opinion Alito wrote for the Supreme Court’s majority in favor of overturning previous Supreme Court abortion rulings and broadly relegating the decision-making on abortion laws back to individual states. Within hours of the leak, protesters had gathered around the Supreme Court.

Protests also began around Alito’s home and the home of fellow Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Such protests may have violated violate federal law. 18 U.S.C. § 1507 prohibits “pickets or parades” in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied by a judge, juror, witness, or court officer “with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing” any of those individuals. 

An armed individual was arrested early on the morning of June 8 near Kavanaugh’s home and was charged with attempted murder after telling police he told police he “came from California to kill a specific United States Supreme Court Justice.”

Alito referenced the June 8 incident, saying “we know that a man has been charged with attempting to kill Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh. It’s a pending case. So I won’t say anything more about that.”

Following the leak, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here. I have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.”

Investigators have not identified the source of the leak.

Alito’s comments about the leak come amid threats and instances of political violence from across the political spectrum.

In September, President Joe Biden gave a speech calling former President Donald Trump and his “MAGA forces” a “threat to this country.” During his speech, Biden condemned the use of violence as a political tool and called out specific instances of violence from the political right, such as the Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol, while avoiding any reference to violence from the political left.

Later on in September, a North Dakota man hit a teenager with his car and, according to investigators, the man said he believed the teenager was “part of a Republican extremist group.” The man also reportedly told investigators he hit the teenaged pedestrian “because he had a political argument with the pedestrian and believes the pedestrian was calling people to come get him.”

Just three days after Alito’s comments in the interview with the Heritage foundation, a suspect who entered Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and violently assaulted her husband Paul Pelosi. The suspect has reportedly told investigators he wanted to target the House Speaker herself and break her kneecaps to “show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions.”