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The Roe v. Wade Opinion Is Not the First Supreme Court Leak

Wired: “…People have claimed that this week’s leak of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is “unprecedented,” but that’s not the case. Take the dreadful Dred Scott decision that in the mid-1800s upheld slavery, one of the very first leaks, if not the first. Three months ahead of the final opinion, newspapers began reporting the vote, a 7-2 split against Dred Scott, the once-enslaved man who’d made his way to a free state to argue for his and his family’s freedom. “Slavery,” one of those newspapers predicted with confidence and concern in the weeks before the final decision, “will thus become a national institution,” enforced by the Court’s “slaveholding majority,” those justices who were “infamous, rank, and smell[ed] to heaven.” That reporting was spot-on in many ways. And much like today, the newspapers warned back then that the decision against Dred Scott would do “much to divest [the Court] of moral influence, and to impair the confidence of the country” in the Court as an institution. The decision, as that 2014 law review article I sent to Justice Alito reads, was one “that many disrespected, written by a Justice who had already turned the newspapers against him, leaked to media by someone at the Court before the official hand-down.”

Source: Scandal! Early Supreme Court News Coverage and the Justice-Journalist Divide, Amy Gajda – 48 Georgia Law Review 781 (2014), Tulane Public Law Research Paper No. 15-8. Download This Paper  / Open PDF in Browser

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