As I wrote below, the rapid-fire follow-up reporting on John Roberts’ position on the Mississippi case, just hours after the Politico exclusive, made me think at the time that the leaked draft opinion wasn’t a one off thing. It seemed part of a larger breakdown of secrecy or on-going leaks tied to the Mississippi abortion case. You don’t come up with details about the Chief Justice’s position and arguments from internal deliberations on one of the biggest cases in decades in an hour and a half if you’re beginning from a cold start. Then this morning I found out about this Wall Street Journal opinion page editorial from April 26th in which they fairly transparently write about current Court deliberations in the Mississippi case, specifically that John Roberts was trying to pull an unnamed conservative Justice back from fully overturning Roe.
We can’t know for a certainty that this wasn’t just uncannily accurate speculation from the WSJ worthies. But this opinion piece didn’t come out right after the oral arguments in the case on December 1st when five conservative Justices appeared entirely ready to overturn Roe and Roberts seemed to be looking for a path to a more limited, though still restrictionist, opinion. That general dynamic was clear then — and probably could have been anticipated given Roberts’ recent history of mild heterodoxy from GOP priorities if not conservative judicial orthodoxies. But why the column in late April? And why the specifics? It certainly reads like the authors had an inside read on on-going deliberations and fears that Roberts might be in the process of sneaking a defeat from the jaws of victory.