DeSantis: SCOTUS leaker was attempting to ‘kneecap’ anti-Roe court majority

‘I think it was really an attack on a lot of the justices’

By: - May 3, 2022 4:38 pm

A large crowd attended the signing of Florida’s 15-week abortion bill on April 14. The law goes into affect July 1. April 14, 2022.

Gov. Ron DeSantis — initially leery of commenting on the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade — now has denounced the disclosure as an attempt to bully or “kneecap” the court’s conservative wing.

“We don’t have a statement on the leaked draft obtained by a news organization last night,” Christina Pushaw, the governor’s spokeswoman, told the Phoenix Tuesday morning.

But later in the day, during a news conference to announce $20 million in statewide grants to protect against sea rise and weather disasters, DeSantis weighed in about the release.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at news conference Nov. 29, 2021.

“I will say, though, to have that leak out the way it did was really unprecedented. And I think it was really an attack on a lot of the justices. I think it was an intentional thing to try to whip up a lot of the public, to try to make it very political, potentially try to bully them into changing one of their positions,” he said.

“That is not something that’s appropriate for the judicial branch. And so, I know they’ve launched an investigation. They need to figure out who did that and they need to hold them accountable. Because that’s a real significant breach of trust,” the governor continued.

“You want to talk about an insurrection? You know, that’s a judicial insurrection, to be taking that out and trying to kneecap a potential majority through, kind of, extraconstitutional means. And so, I was really surprised to see that.”

Actually, there’s no way to know at this point who released the document or the motive, although Chief Justice John Roberts has opened an investigation.

‘We’re going to end up OK on that’

As for the fate of Florida’s new ban on abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation, without exceptions such as  rape, incest, human trafficking, DeSantis was upbeat; the only exceptions are to protect the mother’s health or in case of “fatal fetal abnormality.” The case before the Supreme Court involves a similar ban enacted in Mississippi.

DeSantis signed the bill into law on April 14 and it takes effect on July 1. The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its official ruling by then.

“We really believe we’re that going to end up OK on that,” he said.

“Now, we’re mindful that we also will be challenged under the Florida Constitution and statutes. We think we’re going to win there, but that is going to be something that we’re going to have to do,” DeSantis said.

John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States. Credit: Supreme Court

“At the end of the day, it’s a mistake to read the federal Constitution to completely prohibit any pro-life protections. That’s not consistent with the text history structure. I don’t know if that opinion is going to be the actual opinion.  Roberts said that’s not the final [opinion]; who know what’s going on behind the scenes.”

The Florida Supreme Court has twice invoked privacy protections in the Florida Constitution to strike down abortion restrictions — a parental consent requirement for minors in 1989 and a parental-notification law in 2003.

However, DeSantis since assuming office has appointed enough conservatives to the court to alter its balance significantly. That court has overruled a number of precedents established when the court leaned more to the left, especially in criminal justice cases.

Guns

DeSantis also affirmed his willingness to sign a “constitutional carry” bill into law, meaning to repeal gun licensing and allow practically anyone to carry a weapon around.

“You’re law-abiding, you’re mentally competent. Of course, if you’re a felon you can’t. But you have to go through those checks as a matter of course just to simply acquire the firearm to begin with,” he said.

“The licensing scheme is kind of above that, and what it allows is people that want to take away your license, these officials, they can do that. And so, a lot of states have moved away from that, and I think that that’s probably more consistent with what the constitutional right is supposed to be,” he said.

“In terms of when? You know, I don’t know. The Legislature has got to pass it. I mean, I’ve said for years that I would sign. I don’t know if they have the votes now, but I know that this is something that a lot of people are going to be looking at as we go forward into this next election.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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