OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A reverend and anti-abortion activist has claimed that he knows who leaked a significant Supreme Court decision and it has shaken the court.
Rev. Rob Schenck said, in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts and in interviews with The New York Times, that he was informed of a decision in 2014 on a case involving contraception and religious rights weeks before the decision was announced, The New York Times reported.
“Dear Chief Justice Roberts,
“There is no reason you would remember our brief encounters over the years , but we have met and exchanged pleasantries on several occasions over your tenure at the Court . I write to inform you of a series of events that may impinge on the investigation you and your delegates are undertaking in connection with the leak of a draft opinion,” the reverend said.
“Back in June 2014, when so many awaited the Court’s opinion in Burwell Hobby Lobby, was informed by a donor to the Capitol Hill-based non-profit organization led that she and her husband would be dining at the home of Justice and Mrs. Alito. She suggested that in their table conversation, she might be able to learn the status of the case, something she knew had an interest in knowing. I received a follow -up message from her notifying me she had indeed obtained the information during that visit. We spoke on the phone, and she detailed the revelation. As recall, we talked about the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, and how they, too, would be interested in this information,” he said.
“Over the ensuing three weeks, kept this sensitive information to myself, undetectably using it to assist me in preparing for the inevitable announcement. Then, a day or two before the opinion was released, I called Mr. Steve Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby, and reported what knew of the Courts finding. He thanked me, and we did not speak again about it until October of that year.
“Considering there may be a severe penalty to be paid by whoever is responsible for the initial leak of the recent draft opinion, thought this previous incident might bear some consideration by you and others involved in the process. Of course, I would be happy to fully cooperate should you find any value in other details surrounding what I have transmitted here,” he said.
The insinuation appears to be that Justice Alito was the person who informed of the 2014 decision and, possibly, the Roe V Wade decision.
The New York Times reported.
The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.
Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”
The minister’s account comes at a time of rising concerns about the court’s legitimacy. A majority of Americans are losing confidence in the institution, polls show, and its approval ratings are at a historic low. Critics charge that the court has become increasingly politicized, especially as a new conservative supermajority holds sway.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has given a potential timeline for when the identity of the person or persons who leaked the ‘Roe’ preliminary draft opinion in May could be revealed. In June, the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all states. Gorsuch believes that the Court may soon announce at least some findings from its internal investigation.
“The chief justice appointed an internal committee to oversee the investigation,” Gorsuch said. “That committee has been busy, and we’re looking forward to their report, I hope, soon.”
At the time, the nation’s highest court admitted that a “copy of a draft opinion in a pending case” was made public, but added that it did “not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”
Nearly four months after the leak, the identity of the leaker is still unknown, however.
“Former law clerks at the high court from both sides of the aisle were uniformly stunned when Justice Samuel L. Alito Jr.’s draft dropped online, but they differ broadly on whether the court should identify the culprit and if the leaker needs to be punished to counter future disclosures of controversial cases,” The Washington Times reported.
“And despite the magnitude of the breach of high court etiquette and procedure, some think the mystery may never be cracked — or at least revealed to outsiders,” the report added.
“If they haven’t identified the person by now, they aren’t going to make it public. I don’t think the public will find out,” said Carolyn Shapiro, a former clerk for retired Justice Stephen G. Breyer.