Close up view of Chief Justice John Roberts
Chief Justice John Roberts sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff, The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

By Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press

Chief Justice John Roberts is set to make his first public appearance since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, speaking Friday night at a judicial conference in Colorado.

Roberts is scheduled to be interviewed by two judges from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hosting the conference in Colorado Springs. Two judges from the court, Timothy M. Tymkovich and Jerome A. Holmes will have a discussion with Roberts during the conference’s traditional “fireside chat” event, which has featured a current or past Supreme Court justice since its inception in 2004.

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

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

Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest tenured member of the court, said the court had been irrevocably harmed by the leak. The leaked draft was largely incorporated into Alito’s final opinion in June that overturned Roe in a case upholding Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks.

In June’s ruling, Roberts, appointed to the court in 2005 by former President George W. Bush, voted to uphold Mississippi’s law but he did not join the conservative justices in also overturning Roe as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to end a pregnancy. He wrote that there was no need to overturn the broad precedents to uphold the state law, saying he would take “a more measured course.”

The overturning of Roe has paved the way for severe abortion restrictions or bans in nearly half of U.S. states.

Roberts has spoken out repeatedly about the importance of the judiciary’s independence and to rebut perceptions of the court as a political institution not much different than Congress or the presidency.

Opinion polls since the leak and the release of the final abortion decision, though, have shown a sharp drop in approval of the court and confidence in the institution.

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

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