IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Former Justice Stephen Breyer reflects on 'unfortunate' Supreme Court leak before Dobbs abortion ruling

In an interview with NBC's News' "Meet the Press," Breyer was asked whether the justices had discussed a compromise 15-week abortion ban.
Get more newsLiveon

Former Justice Stephen Breyer described the 2022 leak of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as “unfortunate” and sidestepped questions about whether justices had been working on a compromise ruling behind the scenes.

In an interview with NBC News' "Meet the Press," Breyer didn't say he was upset about the leak while noting that in general he tried to "avoid getting angry" when he was on the bench.

"You try to avoid getting angry or that — you try in the job — you try to remain as calm, reasonable and serious as possible. I think it was unfortunate," he said of the publication of the draft decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

Asked directly whether the justices had discussed a potential compromise to limit access to abortion at 15 weeks, Breyer told "Meet the Press" moderator Kristen Welker, "Well, you know as much about that as I do."

interview former supreme court justice legal law profile
Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer in Cambridge, Mass., on Wednesday.Cheryl Senter / Meet The Press

“The normal situation is before something is written in the conference, people in some form or other will discuss what they’re thinking of writing, not always and not identical. But there’s usually some discussion,” Breyer said of the process leading up to court decisions.

“I usually hope for compromise,” he added.

Watch the full interview Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. ET or check local listings.

Breyer spoke ahead of the release of his book "Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism."

In the book, he criticizes the Dobbs ruling and the justices who backed a decision to put abortion back in the hands of state governments, writing that their "hope that legislatures and not courts will decide the abortion question will not be realized.”

Breyer was one of three justices — along with liberals Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — who dissented against the decision of conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas to overturn Roe. Chief Justice John Roberts separately agreed with the majority decision to uphold the Mississippi law at issue in Dobbs but didn't agree with overturning Roe.

The Dobbs decision was finalized and made public in June 2022, more than a month after it was leaked. Breyer, 85, retired a few days later after previously having decided to step down.

His seat was filled by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a nominee of President Joe Biden and the first Black woman appointed to the court.

interview former supreme court justice legal law
Breyer is interviewed by Kristen Welker for "Meet The Press," in Cambridge, Mass.Cheryl Senter / Meet The Press