Chief Justice John Roberts speaks at Colorado conference

Chief Justice John Roberts will appear in public for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court overthrows Roe v. Wade, speaking at a judicial conference in Colorado.

Roberts is expected to be interviewed by two judges from the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which hosts the conference in Colorado Springs. Two judges of the court, Timothy M. Tymkovich and Jerome A. Holmes, will have a discussion with Roberts at the conference’s traditional “fireplace chat” event, where a current or past Supreme Court judge since its inception in 2004 has been in order.

While the conference offers lawyers and judges a chance to learn about emerging legal issues, the chat, sponsored by the circuit’s historical society, usually focuses on the historical view of their careers, rather than discussing current events. Gregory Kerwin, the association’s counselor, said.

The Supreme Court has been busy making history this year. In May, there was an unprecedented leak of Judge Samuel Alito’s draft opinion, which suggested the court was about to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which provided women with nearly 50 years of constitutional protection from abortion. Roberts ordered an investigation into how the opinion came out.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest serving member of the court, said the court suffered irrevocable damage from the leak. The leaked draft was largely included in Alito’s final opinion in June, which overturned Roe in a case upholding Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks.

In the June ruling, Roberts, who was appointed to the court by former President George W. Bush in 2005, voted to uphold Mississippi law, but he did not join the conservative judges in also ruling on Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to terminate a pregnancy. He wrote that there was no need to overturn the broad precedents to enforce state law, and said he would take “a more measured course.”

Roe’s overthrow has paved the way for strict abortion restrictions or bans in nearly half of US states.

Roberts has repeatedly spoken out about the importance of the independence of the judiciary and of challenging the perception of the court as a political institution not much different from Congress or the presidency.

However, polls since the leak and the publication of the final abortion decision have shown a sharp decline in court approval and confidence in the institution.


Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report from Washington.