Draft document leak offers unprecedented look into Supreme Court deliberative process

A draft document of an upcoming Supreme Court decision is offering an unprecedented look into the deliberative process of America’s highest judicial court.

The draft, obtained and published by POLITICO late Monday evening, shows the majority of the Supreme Court voting to overturn the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

Justice Samuel Alito is said to have authored the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch joining.

The draft, from February, is subject to change, according to legal and political experts. But POLITICO reported there was little change in the perspective of the five Justices, with three opposing and one remaining undecided.

No draft opinion has ever leaked from the Supreme Court before. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court affirmed the draft was authentic, but cautioned that no decision had been finalized.

Sacramento attorney Mark Reichel, who argued before the Supreme Court in 2006, said it amounted to a “legal earthquake,” the ramifications will be felt within the legal industry for years to come.

The decision, if it remains largely unchanged from the draft published on Monday, would also force state governments to take a position on abortion.

“What they’re saying is this: There’s no constitutional right to it,” Reichel told CBS13 News in Sacramento. “So if your state bans it, you can’t scream [that] your constitutional rights are being violated.”

Reichel said it was unlikely that California would move to ban abortion. Late Monday evening, Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted his opposition to the draft document, later proposing an amendment to the state’s constitution that would preserve abortion rights in California.

“California will not sit back,” the governor tweeted. “We are going to fight like hell.”

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Supreme Court says vulnerable inmates can be released due to coronavirus

The Supreme Court has rejected a Trump administration request to block a lower court’s order to release more than 800 medically-vulnerable inmates from a federal prison in Ohio.

The order handed down on Tuesday comes after four prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institute in Elkton, Ohio filed a class-action lawsuit saying conditions at the prison violated their Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

“Prisons are not Constitution-free zones,” Joseph Mead, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU’s Ohio chapter, said in a statement as reported by the Davis Vanguard. “People who live and work in prisons should not be forced to face unnecessary risk of death and disease.”

Nine inmates have died and more than 200 others have become infected at the Elkhorn prison since the start of the global pandemic linked to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, according to figures published by the Bureau of Prisons as of Wednesday. In addition to the inmate infections, seven staff members at the prison have tested positive.

The Elkhorn facility has the third-highest rate of infections among inmates according to BOP data.

“People at Elkton are dying. The situation is particularly dire, even compared to other corrections facilities,” David Carey, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU in Ohio, told the Cleveland Scene in April. “We’ve already seen that prisons are tinderboxes for COVID-19 because people are forced to exist in close, shared spaces for eating, sleeping, and bathing. … Further delay will result in further death.”

The Supreme Court agreed, refusing to block a lower court’s judgment that BOP officials immediately start releasing more than 800 medically-vulnerable inmates from the low-security prison.

In a one-page ruling on the matter, the Supreme Court said the Trump administration failed to challenge an order issued by the federal court on May 19. Instead, the Trump administration requested a review of a preliminary injunction issued on April 22.

The May 19 order superseded the April 22 ruling, and since the Trump administration failed to challenge the newer order, the Supreme Court declined to take up the issue.

Even if the Trump administration had challenged both injunctions, only three Supreme Court justices would have granted their request, the order released on Tuesday said. That would have fallen short of the majority needed to overturn the lower court’s decisions.

A decision in the overall case is still pending in federal court, meaning vulnerable inmates will likely have to wait in custody a bit longer.