By MARK SHERMAN – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Less than 24 hours after the unprecedented leak of the draft advisory opinion that Roe v. Wade, Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the “egregious violation.” “
The Supreme Court does not want to say whether there are still investigations.
The court also won’t say if the leaker was identified or if anyone was disciplined.
Or whether an outside law firm or the FBI got involved.
Or if the court will ever give an account of what happened.
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Or whether it has taken steps to prevent a recurrence.
On those and other emailed questions, Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe said via email, “The Court has no comment.”
Roberts announced the probe May 3, a day after Politico released its explosive leak detailing Judge Samuel Alito’s draft opinion. Court Marshal Gail Curley was tapped to direct the investigation.
The story filled the airwaves, news sites and online comment sections. There were calls for impeachment when a judiciary was involved. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the leak was a pressure campaign to “sway” the outcome and he suggested that the lawlessness be “investigated and punished as much as possible.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest-serving member of the court, said the court was irrevocably damaged. “When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I am in, the institution changes fundamentally. You start looking over your shoulder. It’s like a kind of infidelity that you can explain but can’t undo.”
If any justice was affected, it did not manifest itself in any visible way. The draft was largely incorporated into Alito’s final opinion, which added responses to the dissenting judges’ points, and on June 24 a conservative majority of the court overturned Roe, removing a nearly 50-year-old abortion right.
Abortion has largely been banned in at least nine states, and the decision is expected to prompt about half the states to ban or severely restrict abortion.
The court finished its work for the summer on June 30, after which the legal trainees of the judiciary left for their next jobs. That means about three dozen people who likely had access to the draft report, out of about 70 in total, are no longer easily accessible to investigators.
Roberts should complete the investigation, said Gabe Roth, head of court transparency group Fix the Court.
“There are just so many other things the Marshal’s office has to take care of that are far more important than the leak. The safety of judges is probably more threatened today than it has been in years past,” Roth said.
Safety concerns reached alarming proportions in early June when police arrested a gunman near Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s home after he called 911 and said he intended to kill Kavanaugh.
The courthouse has been closed to the public since March 2020, a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and threats against the court and judges, which led to the installation of an 8-foot-tall, difficult-to-climb fence shortly after the leak.
There is little precedent for the leak and investigation in the annals of the Supreme Court.
“This was a unique and egregious breach of that trust, which is an affront to the court and the community of public servants who work here,” Roberts said in announcing the investigation.
In 1973, Chief Justice Warren Burger was furious at the leak of the Roe case’s outcome hours before it was to be announced. Burger threatened to subject employees to polygraph tests, but the leaker quickly came forward, stating it was an accident.
If the leak of Alito’s draft was intentional, it could have come from someone so upset at the prospect of overthrowing Roe that it was of paramount importance to let the public know at the earliest opportunity.
Or it could have come from a supporter of the decision who was concerned that one of the five judges was wavering in the majority. In this scenario, the leak should make it difficult for a judge to vote to let Roe stand when he’s significantly weakened.
The public may never know. On the other hand, Supreme Court officials often move on to prominent legal jobs. Six of the nine judges once served as court clerks.
At some point in the next few decades, one or more of them could show up at a confirmation hearing for a magistrate or other high-level government agency, where they could be asked if they leaked the document or know who did it.
For AP’s full coverage of the Supreme Court abortion ruling, visit https://apnews.com/hub/abortion
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