News & Politics

Is Chief Justice Roberts Trying to Save Roe v. Wade?

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Chief Justice John Roberts has been a thorn in the side of conservatives for some time now. Once praised by the right, Roberts has seemingly abandoned constitutional originalism and earned himself the status of being the court’s key swing vote. Thanks to Roberts, conservatives have found themselves disappointed in many rulings by the court, and rumor has it he’s actively trying to disappoint them in another.

Roberts is reportedly trying to get justices to side against upholding the Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks, which is at issue in the Dobbs v. Jackson case. According to The Wall Street Journal, following oral arguments on Dec. 1, Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito indicated they were “likely votes to sustain the law and overturn both precedents,” while “Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett seemed, in their questioning, to side with the three conservatives …”

But here’s where things get interesting: Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly tried during the oral argument to “find a middle way.”

If [Roberts] pulls another Justice to his side, he could write the plurality opinion that controls in a 6-3 decision. If he can’t, then Justice Thomas would assign the opinion and the vote could be 5-4. Our guess is that Justice Alito would then get the assignment.

The Justices first declare their votes on a case during their private conference after oral argument, but they can change their mind. That’s what the Chief did in the ObamaCare case in 2012, much to the dismay of the other conservatives. He may be trying to turn another Justice now.

According to Josh Blackman at The Volokh Conspiracy, “This seems like very, very specific information. Has there been a leak? And which (singular) colleague is Roberts trying to turn?”

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A ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson is expected by the end of the Court’s term in June.