A "rattled" Supreme Court is set to have its first meeting amid the response to overturning long-held women's rights laws, reports Politico.
Although some legal observers have mused about whether Chief Justice John Roberts could find a way to moderate the draft ruling authored by Justice Samuel Alito, experts who spoke with Politico said he likely lacks any real power to make it happen.
Conservative attorney Curt Levey, who's argued before the court, claimed, “There probably was a time when Roberts could’ve convinced one of the other conservative justices [in the pending abortion case.] He might well have succeeded in that a few years ago … Maybe this is the ultimate payback that in the most controversial of all cases and the biggest threat to the legitimacy of the court that he no longer has the persuasive power.”
Historian David Garrow said it isn't the role of the chief justice to persuade anyone. In reality, the justices all challenge each other's opinions, debating the issues. But Roberts in the past has made it clear such decisions were his goal.
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"There's no question in my mind that the justices have worked very hard to issue unanimous or near-unanimous rulings this term," said former Supreme Court clerk Kate Shaw of the 2021 term. "The justices pride themselves on standing outside of the world of politics, and they're well aware that the court was the subject of a great deal of political attention over the last year."
Syracuse University constitutional law Prof. Thomas Keck, meanwhile, told Politico that “there are certainly signs that this is not really Roberts’ court."
Historian Stephen Wermiel from American University said that such division was entirely predictable.
“I think it’s more about the math than anything else. He was the swing vote because he was the swing vote. He doesn’t hold that position anymore," Wermiel said of Roberts.
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There was speculation that because Alito's decision was so extreme, it could put Roberts on the dissenting side. Multiple reports have also claimed Roberts has been working behind the scenes to save a portion of Roe v. Wade, or at least to tone down Alito's arguments that go so far as to cite a British judge from the 1700s who supported spousal rape and executed women accused of witchcraft.