Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Relitigating Dobbs in a Conservative Court: The Potential Road from Justice Thomas and Natural Law

By James C. Ashley
James C. Ashley is a summa cum laude graduate of Albany Law School, class of 2023. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Linguistics from SUNY Albany, also summa cum laude.
At Albany Law School, James was an Executive Editor for Notes and Comments on the Albany Law Review, a Sponsler Fellow in Civil Procedure, and a Teaching Assistant in Lawyering. He was the winner of the 2022 Domenick L. Gabrielli Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition. James interned with the New York State Division of Human Rights, as well as with Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, where he will begin his career after the bar exam.

As early as 1991, reporters predicted that if selected for the Supreme Court, a Justice Clarence Thomas would one day vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

At his confirmation hearing, he was questioned about his prior embrace of the doctrine of natural law—the belief in the existence of a higher law that can be discovered by human reason—to draw out his views on abortion. Thirty years later, the Supreme Court held, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that the Federal Constitution does not provide protection for a woman’s right to have an abortion, with Justice Thomas voting to overturn Roe as predicted. He concurred separately, but with no explicit references to the natural law doctrine.

This paper examines Justice Thomas’s opinions on abortion for either implicit or explicit references to natural law. Then, it weighs the feasibility of several novel arguments that could be used to relitigate Dobbs before a conservative Court.
To read the paper, open HERE.