The Supreme Court Unable To Identify Source of Leaked Abortion Ruling Draft

January 19, 2023

At this time … it is not possible to determine the identity of any individual who may have disclosed the document or how the draft opinion ended up with Politico.

A report released by the United States Supreme Court on its investigation into how a draft opinion on abortion law was leaked to news source, Politico, in May of 2022.

Background: In May of 2022, a draft of the majority opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. was leaked and published by Politico. Leaks from the Supreme Court are extremely rare, and a leak of this type on such a high profile case is unprecedented in modern history. Chief Justice John Roberts assigned an investigation into the breach to the Supreme Court marshal and her staff. Upon releasing the report on the Court’s investigation, the Supreme Court said, “The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process,” calling it an “extraordinary betrayal of trust.”

Why It Matters: After months of investigation and 126 formal interviews of 97 Court employees, the Court was unable to find out how the draft opinion was leaked. This investigation also revealed insight into how the Supreme Court works – for example, about how the Court’s printer network was set up, and the fact that they do not provide all employees with mobile phones.

Key Details from the Report:

  • The report shares, “After examining the Court’s computer devices, networks, printers, and available call and text logs, investigators have found no forensic evidence indicating who disclosed the draft opinion.”
  • Investigators could also not rule out the possibility that the opinion was “inadvertently or negligently disclosed – for example, by being left in a public space either inside or outside the building.”
  • “… the investigators discovered very few confirmed print jobs of the draft majority opinion”
  • Throughout the interviews conducted, investigators found that some Court employees admitted talking to their spouses about the ruling, “in violation of the Court’s confidentiality rules.”
  • The report did not indicate “whether investigators also looked at the personal communications of the justices themselves — or those of their spouses,” The New York Times explains.

What’s Next? The report made several recommendations for how the Court can improve the security practices surrounding sensitive Court-documents. Before releasing the report, the Court consulted former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to review their investigation. Chertoff concluded that he could not “identify any additional useful investigative measures,” and that “The Court investigators will continue following up on leads if more information is learned.”

Sunday is 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling by the Supreme Court which established a constitutional right to an abortion *with limits*; this ruling was overturned by the Court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson. On Friday, the March for Life will take place in Washington, DC.

Here’s a link to the full report

Supreme Court Says It Hasn’t Identified Person Who Leaked Draft Abortion Opinion (The New York Times)

Supreme Court says it hasn’t found abortion opinion leaker (The Associated Press)

by Jenna Lee,