This morning, in the aftermath of the story in Politico revealing a secret draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement regarding the leak. Roberts, reacting to the threat to the functioning of the Supreme Court, confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document. He lauded the loyal and confidential nature of permanent staff and legal clerks alike. At the same time, he blasted the intent of the leak, saying, “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed.”
Roberts seems to acknowledge the partisan and political intent of the leak in this statement and the existential threat it poses to the operation of the court. Legal observers have reacted with disgust at the leak, calling it an earthquake that threatens the very integrity of the institution.
Jim Geraghty had a good summary at NRO this morning of the crisis faced by SCOTUS:
Suddenly, the Supreme Court Can’t Keep Secrets
Was it inevitable that one of the biggest Supreme Court decisions in generations would spur one of the biggest Supreme Court scandals ever? Way back in December, our Dan McLaughlin asked, “If the Court is doing something as dramatic — and as upsetting to the sorts of people who clerk for the liberal justices — as overturning Roe, will it be able to keep that a secret for seven months?” Dan’s instincts were correct.
Until a Supreme Court decision is officially released, that ruling is secret. Everyone involved in the Court understands their solemn duty to respect the justices’ deliberation and writing process, and the importance of keeping the rulings under wraps until their official announcement. Leaking that sort of information is a violation of trust and of a Court employee’s duty.
At minimum, justices should be able to deliberate behind closed doors, toss around ideas, argue back and forth, and sort out their decisions without worrying that what they said in private last week is going to turn up on the Internet next week.
— Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) May 3, 2022
BREAKING: Chief Justice John Roberts has directed the marshal of the Supreme Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, which Roberts verified as an authentic document pic.twitter.com/vcq4lTY7bk
— John Kruzel (@johnkruzel) May 3, 2022
Yesterday, a news organization published a copy of a draft opinion in a pending case. Justices circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work. Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., provided the following statement:
To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.
We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce – permanent employees and law clerks alike – intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law. Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court. This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.
I have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.
Whoever leaked this document has a lot to lose. So does America, if its institutions can no longer be trusted.