Sarah May
January 14, 2024

All 6 conservative SCOTUS justices recuse themselves in abortion-related matter

In a highly unusual development out of the U.S. Supreme Court, all six justices on the conservative wing of the panel recently recused themselves from consideration of whether to hear a Texas abortion-related case, as Newsweek reports.

The case at issue, brought by a New Jersey resident known as MacTruong, stemmed from enforcement of the Texas Heartbeat Act, and the complaint named the aforementioned six jurists among its list of defendants.

Route to recusals

Newsweek explained that Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanuagh, and Amy Coney Barrett all decided they would play no part in determining whether the aforementioned case would receive a hearing at the high court.

MacTruong's original lawsuit claimed that abortion restrictions put in place by virtue of the Texas statute are violative of the Constitution.

Given that the conservative justices at the high court were involved in the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, he argued, they were also involved in ensuring that the Texas law was enforceable, an outcome he believes must not be allowed to stand.

As a result of a dismissal at the trial court level, MacTruong appealed to the Fifth Circuit, where his arguments also did not prevail, thus prompting his attempt to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Decision by default

According to the order list released by the Supreme Court on Monday, the six aforementioned jurists “took no part in the consideration or decision” of MacTruong's petition.

Given that there was an insufficient tally of justices to make a quorum, the lower court's ruling was affirmed.

Speaking to Newsweek, judicial ethics expert Alex Baldas suggested that the conservative justices named in the petition may have been ineligible to participate in matters related to case even if they had not recused themselves, largely due to the court's own recent ethics declaration.

The statement said, “A Justice should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the Justice's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that is, where an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant circumstances would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties.”

Baldas mused, “I believe being named in the suit falls into this category of disqualification.”

Noting the left-leaning ideological disposition of the Fifth Circuit judges who heard the case below, Baldas added that they “may be sympathetic to his claim that Dobbs was incorrectly decided but it shows that [MacTruong's] legal case for standing is very weak,” and therefore the default dispatching of the petition at the SCOTUS level did not likely result in an injustice.

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