Overview:

A report claims that Roberts lobbied fellow conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh to vote against conservatives to save Roe v. Wade from being overturned.

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts provoked furor from conservatives a decade ago when he voted to save the Affordable Care Act. Voting to save former President Obama’s signature legislation from a court challenge led Republicans to view the justice as an unreliable conservative vote on the court. Now, a report claims that Roberts lobbied fellow conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh to vote against conservatives to save Roe v. Wade from being overturned. The report argues that the effort was foiled by the leak of the draft opinion indicating that the justices had voted to overturn Roe. 

It is not uncommon for justices to lobby each other to vote in a specific fashion, especially on contentious legislation. The new report claims that Roberts continued to lobby Kavanaugh, even after the draft report had been released. 

CNN analyst Joan Biskupic said that Roberts’ efforts were provoked fear in conservatives. “Roberts’ overtures this spring, particularly to Kavanaugh, raised fears among conservatives and hope among liberals that the chief could change the outcome in the most closely watched case in decades,” Biskupic said. “Once the draft was published by Politico, conservatives pressed their colleagues to try to hasten release of the final decision, lest anything suddenly threaten their majority. Roberts’ persuasive efforts, difficult even from the start, were thwarted by the sudden public nature of the state of play.”

In late April, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff published a piece stating that Roberts had been working to save Roe, and was working to earn the vote of another conservative justice. 

After the draft opinion of the court’s decision was leaked in the spring, it seems that Roberts’ lobbying efforts ran into difficulties. Roberts vowed to find out who was behind “this betrayal of the confidences of the Court,” and said that the court’s work on rulings “will not be affected in any way.” 

Roberts went on to vote with the conservatives to overturn Roe. The court also made conservative rulings on issues such as guns, environmental regulations, and religion in schools during this session. In 2016, former President Trump promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe, and that promise came to pass six years later. 

Marcus Johnson

Marcus Johnson is a political commentator and a political science Ph.D. candidate at American University. His primary research focus is the impact of political institutions on the racial wealth gap.