Democrats want answers to allegations of SCOTUS Hobby Lobby leak

by Jacob Fuller

Chris Lieberman, FISM News


After months of little-to-no interest in locating the source of the Dobbs leak, congressional Democrats are launching an investigation into allegations that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito leaked the outcome of the 2014 Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision to conservative activists.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) wrote a letter, first reported by Politico, to Chief Justice John Roberts claiming that the Supreme Court has not done enough to investigate potential ethics violations by the justices.

“It seems that the underlying issue is the absence of a formal facility for complaint or investigation into possible ethics or reporting violations,” Whitehouse and Johnson wrote.

Congressional oversight and internal investigations initiated by the Court itself are, as a general matter, the only two avenues of investigating unethical conduct at the Court. If the Court, as your letter suggests, is not willing to undertake fact-finding inquiries into possible ethics violations that leaves Congress as the only forum.

The letter comes one day after a New York Times report claimed that Alito revealed the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case to conservative donor Gayle Wright, who then relayed the information to evangelical Rev. Rob Schenck during a dinner at the Alitos’ Virginia home weeks before the decision was made public.

Alito denies the allegations, saying in a statement, “I never detected any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything that I did in either an official or private capacity, and I would have strongly objected if they had done so.” Wright also denied the story.

Whitehouse and Johnson had previously written to Roberts on Sept. 7 over claims that Schenck and others had run an influence campaign with conservative justices to push them toward conservative decisions on social issues, raising concerns of possible ethics violations.

Roberts and his legal counsel, Evan Torrey, responded in a Nov. 7 letter highlighting the Supreme Court’s ethics code. But Whitehouse and Johnson were not satisfied, writing, “A response pointing out the existence of rules is not responsive to questions about whether those rules were broken.”

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called for judicial oversight reform in response to these allegations. He tweeted, “It is unacceptable that members of the highest court are exempted from the judicial code of ethics when wealthy special interests are spending millions in dark money to influence the Court’s decisions. Since the Court refuses to act, Congress should pass Supreme Court Ethics Act.”

But while Democrats have expressed outrage over Alito’s alleged leak, there have been no calls to investigate the May leak of Alito’s Dobbs decision, which indicated the court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade more than a month before the opinion was officially released. The Dobbs leak led to protests outside justices’ homes, several attacks on churches and crisis pregnancy centers, and even an attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s life.

“The leak also made those of us who were thought to be in the majority in support of overruling Roe and Casey targets for assassination because it gave people a rational reason to think they could prevent that from happening by killing one of us,” Alito said at an event last month.