Court Battles

Clerks asked for phone records in Supreme Court probe: report

Officials investigating the leak of a draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade have asked law clerks to provide cellphone records and sign affidavits, CNN reported.

Citing three sources with knowledge of the efforts, CNN reported some clerks have begun exploring hiring outside counsel in response to the probe. The specifics of the records requests and affidavits remain unclear.

The Hill has reached out to the Supreme Court for comment.

Chief Justice John Roberts directed the marshal of the Supreme Court to launch the probe after Politico on May 2 published the leaked draft opinion, which would effectively eliminate federal abortion protections and hand authority over abortion access to states.

“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,” Roberts said in a press release on May 3.

The court is expected to issue its final ruling on Mississippi’s abortion law — in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — in the coming weeks.

The court is notoriously secretive, and prior to the Politico story, no draft opinion in the court’s modern history had leaked to the public before its official release.

The Supreme Court has not issued any public update on the probe since it was launched on May 3.

The draft opinion, authored by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, would have been circulated to the nine justices, their clerks and key staffers within each justice’s chambers and administrative offices, potentially about 75 people in all, CNN reported.

It’s unclear if others working at the court who would have had access to the document are also being asked to provide phone records.

Some legal experts argue that the Supreme Court leaker may have committed a federal crime by leaking the draft decision, but others say it was an ethical breach more likely to result in the leaker’s firing or disbarment.

There are varying theories on the source of the leak. Some conservative lawmakers have suggested it was a liberal clerk seeking to stir up resistance ahead of the decision, while other pundits have said it was likely a conservative clerk seeking to lock in the five votes in support of Alito’s opinion.

A group of 12 House Republicans on Tuesday introduced legislation that would plainly criminalize leaks of nonpublic Supreme Court information, including draft opinions. Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had called on the Department of Justice to probe the issue.

The draft opinion’s leak has thrust abortion back into the political spotlight, with liberals hoping to galvanize abortion rights supporters ahead of November’s midterms.

And with the court’s final ruling nearing, Democrats and Republicans are also fighting over abortion legislation at the state level. Twenty-two states have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed the strictest anti-abortion law in the nation last week, immediately banning abortion at any point during pregnancy unless it is necessary to save the woman’s life or the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

Tags abortion CNN John Roberts Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Supreme Court leak

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