Supreme Court says it can’t determine who leaked Dobbs’ draft opinion

The Supreme Court revealed Thursday that it cannot identify the person who leaked a draft of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade.

A report by Supreme Court Sheriff Gail Curley said that “it is not possible to determine the identity of any person who may have disclosed the document or how the draft opinion ended up with Politico. No one has confessed to publicly disclosing the document and none of the available forensic and other evidence provided a basis for identifying any individual as the source of the document.”

“While the Court’s investigators and IT experts cannot absolutely rule out an attack, the evidence to date does not reveal any indication of inappropriate external access,” the report says.

Curley said more than 80 people had access to the draft opinion and 97 were interviewed, some more than once. But he concluded that “based on a preponderance of the standard of evidence,” it was impossible to identify the leaker.

Interviewees were told they could be fired if they refused or did not answer the questions truthfully, according to the report. Each employee was required to sign an affidavit “affirming that he or she did not disclose Dobbs’ draft opinion to any person who was not an employee of the Supreme Court” and to swear before a notary to the truth of the statement.

Some of the interviewees admitted to telling their spouses about the draft opinion or the vote count in violation of the court’s confidentiality rules, according to the report, but “the interviews provided very few clues as to who may have publicly disclosed the report.” document”.

Read the full report on the Supreme Court’s leak investigation

The legal and political worlds have been eagerly awaiting the results of the internal investigation since May, after Politico released a draft of Judge Samuel A. Alito’s ruling. The draft was essentially the same as the decision the court issued weeks later. Five conservative justices used the case to overturn Roe, while Roberts said he would have upheld the restrictive Mississippi abortion law at issue. The three liberals on the court combined in an angry dissent.

The leak was an extraordinary violation of decorum and practice in a venue that prides itself on keeping internal judges’ deliberations secret. It has been condemned as a harmful interruption by those members who have discussed it publicly.

Alito said this fall that the leak was a “serious betrayal of trust by someone, and it was a shock” that led to a “changed” atmosphere in court and made his colleagues mostly “assassination targets.” . The threat to the judges, he added, was not theoretical because it “gave people a rational reason to think they could stop that from happening by killing one of us.”

Roberts took the extraordinary step of confirming the authenticity of the draft opinion the day after it was published. He also announced an internal investigation into how the draft was made public.

“To the extent that this betrayal of the Court’s confidences was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” Roberts said. “The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”

He has been silent about the leak ever since, even as other judges mentioned that the investigation was ongoing and spoke about what they said were damaging implications of the leak on court deliberations and trust between individual judges.

Judge Neil M. Gorsuch said in September that it was “terribly important” to identify the source of the leak.

“Inadequate efforts to influence judicial decision-making, by any side, by whomever, are a threat to the judicial decision-making process and inhibit our ability to communicate with each other,” Gorsuch said in the US Court of Appeals. Tenth United States Circuit. Semi-annual Bench & Bar Conference in Colorado.

But little is known about the investigation, except for a few reports that have emerged of disagreements between judges and their clerks over attempts to examine cell phone records.

Conservatives have been increasingly vocal about finding the source of the leak. Meanwhile, abortion rights protesters have regularly gathered outside the homes of Roberts and other judges since May.

A California man faces attempted murder charges after he was arrested outside the suburban Maryland home of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh with weapons and a plan to break into the judge’s home.

The leak made the Supreme Court a place “where you look over your shoulder” and may have irreparably broken trust in the institution, Justice Clarence Thomas said in a conference weeks after the leak.

“What happened on the field was unbelievably bad,” Thomas said. “I wonder how long we are going to have these institutions at the rate that we are undermining them. And then I wonder, when they are gone or destabilized, what are we going to have as a country?

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan also condemned the leak. “The court relies on confidentiality in its deliberations to reach decisions,” he said in an arraignment last fall, “and you can’t do that if you know you could wake up tomorrow morning and there’s a decision and it’s on the front page of the newspapers”.

This is a developing story. Will be updated. Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.

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