Investigators spoke with the nine Supreme Court justices and their spouses during their investigation about how a draft opinion on a ruling that would overturn the country’s abortion law was leaked to the media.
The 23-page Supreme Court report, which details an eight-month investigation, more than 120 interviews and a forensic examination of cellphones, laptops and email accounts, made no mention of the interviews, prompting questions about a possible case gap in the investigation.
But Court Marshal Gail Curley said in a statement on Friday that she had spoken to each justice on a number of occasions and they had “cooperated” with their investigations. She said she found nothing to implicate the judges or their spouses.
“During the inquest I spoke to each of the judges, several on multiple occasions. The judges actively participated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine. I have followed all credible leads, none of which implicated the judges or their spouses. On that basis, I did not find it necessary to ask the judges to sign affidavits,” she said in a statement issued by the court.
Judges of the US Supreme Court were questioned about the leaked opinion as part of the court’s investigation: Seated (LR): Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Elena Kagan. Standing (L-R): Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Ketanji Brown Jackson
The leaked draft sparked nationwide protests and in court
The report, released Thursday, admitted the leaker had not been found and acknowledged the likelihood of finding the person was slim.
It effectively cleared the judiciary’s legal staff of the leak. But it also described the lack of security that made it easy to slip the information out of the building.
Politico’s May 2 bombshell report — which detailed the draft opinion and the judges’ vote — shook the court to its core. Conservatives blamed Liberals for the leak, while Liberals said it was Conservatives who wanted to prop up the 5-4 vote Roe v. Wade would fall.
The judges themselves blamed the leak.
Judge Samuel Alito called the leak a “serious breach of trust by someone and it came as a shock” leading to a “changed” atmosphere at the court. Judge Clarence Thomas likened it to infidelity.
Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into what he called a “tremendous chest of confidence.”
But even after the draft opinion revealed that Alito and four conservative justices would vote to overthrow Roe, Roberts tried to convince at least one of the five to vote with him and the Liberals to protect abortion rights, CNN reported.
The leaked decision made Roberts’ negotiation efforts all the more difficult, the network reported.
The Supreme Court announced that it had dismissed the person drafting a Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization leaked
Timeline on the leak as published in the Supreme Court report
February 10: The draft Dobbs report was emailed to a mailing list of 70 people, made up of paralegals and permanent court staff who work on reports.
March 22: Eight other permanent employees received the draft opinion via email. Investigators later discovered that two other permanent employees had separately accessed the draft report electronically.
May 22: Politico publishes draft statement
May 23: Chief Justice Roberts confirms its authenticity when he orders an investigation into the leak
And it wasn’t the first leak, according to a November New York Times report that claimed Rev. Rob Schenck had received an early warning that the Supreme Court would rule in a case brought by Hobby Lobby that claimed a family companies that pay for contraceptive insurance violate their religious freedoms.
Schenck, who used to run an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, told the Times how he learned about the 2014 ruling in advance. He also said he had written to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts about the matter.
He said in June 2014, an Ohio couple who had donated to their group dined with Alito and Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann. The next day, Gayle Wright, one of the two, contacted Schenck to say that Hobby Lobby’s decision would be favorable and was written by Alito.
Three weeks later, the published judgment of the court confirmed this.
Alito denied the allegation.
“The claim that the outcome of the Hobby Lobby decision or the authorship of the court’s judgment was communicated to the Wrights by me or my wife is utterly false. My wife and I met the Wrights a few years ago because of their strong support of the Supreme Court Historical Society, and we’ve had an easygoing and purely social relationship ever since,” he said in a statement.
Politico released its explosive leak on May 2, causing a seismic cultural shift that politically polarized the entire nation. Since the Supreme Court ruling in 1973, abortion rights have been recognized federally across the US, and this memo revealed that a nearly 50-year-old ruling was about to be overturned.
The Supreme Court on Thursday released a 23-page report on its review of the leak, saying it “was unable to identify a responsible person through a preponderance of evidence.”
However, investigators also found fault with the court itself, saying its security policies are outdated and much of the system is built on trust, making it “too easy to remove sensitive information from the building” — a clue to the person’s secret can never be found be resolved.
It also did not rule out that a copy of the report could simply be left lying around “for example by leaving it in a public place inside or outside the building”.
A breach of cyber security was also ruled out.
“While the court’s investigators and IT experts cannot absolutely rule out a hacker attack, the evidence to date does not indicate any form of improper access from outside.” says the court report.
When the final decision was released in late June, it was remarkably similar to the leaked draft. Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Judge Amy Coney Barrett voted to overthrow Roe.