Senior Democratic lawmakers demand answers on alleged Supreme Court leak

Two senior Democrats in Congress are requesting that Chief Justice John Roberts provide specifics regarding the Supreme Court’s response to recent allegations of a leak of a significant case’s outcome.
Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)are also interested in looking into claims that religious conservatives made a concerted effort to woo the justices by inviting them to meals and social gatherings.They made it clear in a Sunday letter to Roberts that lawmakers are likely to conduct their own investigation if the court does not investigate the alleged ethical breaches.

The two lawmakers also criticized the high court’s response to a letter they sent to Roberts in September, asking about the court’s response to reports in Rolling Stone and POLITICO about a long-running campaign to boost the religiosity of the justices and encourage favorable decisions.
A Supreme Court ethics attorney responded earlier this month on Roberts’ behalf, describing some of the court’s policies and practices in the area but not the lobbying campaign.

In their new letter that was obtained exclusively by POLITICO on Sunday, Whitehouse and Johnson wrote, “A response pointing out the existence of rules is not responsive to questions about whether those rules were broken.” This letter was obtained exclusively by POLITICO.The absence of a formal facility for complaints or investigations into possible ethics or reporting violations appears to be the root of the problem….On the off chance that the Court, as your letter recommends, isn’t willing to embrace reality tracking down investigations into potential morals infringement that leaves Congress as the main gathering.”
A message that was sent late Sunday night inquiring about the letter did not receive an immediate response from a spokesperson for the Supreme Court.

The legislators said their most recent letter to Roberts was set off to some degree by a report Saturday in the New York Times about a previous enemy of fetus removal lobbyist’s case that he got advance word about the result in 2014 of an instance of intense interest to social moderates.In the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito ruled that religious owners of closely held businesses were exempt from all of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirements.
Rev. Rob Schenck, a former evangelical minister who has since switched denominations, stated that he was informed several weeks before the court released the opinion about the outcome of the case and Alito’s authorship of the opinion.Schenck claimed that he got his information from a wealthy couple who had dinner with Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, at the Virginia home of the Alitos after giving a lot of money to the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Alito insisted that neither he nor his wife were to blame for any leaks.Gayle Wright, one of the couple who dined with the Alitos that night, has also denied that she told Schenck about the case’s outcome.Her better half, Ohio land engineer Wear Wright, kicked the bucket in 2020.

POLITICO spent several months looking into the alleged leak and found no one who claimed to have direct knowledge of Justice Alito or his wife disclosing the Hobby Lobby case’s outcome early.However, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that Schenck knew ahead of time about the case’s outcome and the author.
In July, Schenck informed Roberts of the alleged leak through a letter.He said that the court might want to think about how to deal with POLITICO’s much-publicized May disclosure of a draft Alito opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

The new letter from Whitehouse and Johnson asks Roberts to explain whether the court has “reevaluated any of its practices, procedures, or rules related to judicial ethics, or the justices’ receipt and reporting of gifts and travel” as a result of the recent news reports and Schenck’s letter. The court has not commented on Schenck’s letter or whether any investigation was conducted into the 2014 leak.

Whitehouse and Johnson also expressed concern over donors to the Supreme Court Historical Society, a non-profit educational organization with close ties to the court, who have attempted to use the society’s events to get to know the justices.”Who is in charge of monitoring the relationship between the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Historical Society to make sure that paid membership in the Society is not used to gain undue influence?”Legislators inquired.
Sunday evening, a request for clarification was sent to a society official, who did not immediately respond.
In his capacity as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights, Whitehouse, a strident critic of what he believes is the politicization of the Supreme Court, is in a position to pursue those concerns. Johnson heads up a similar subcommittee on the House side, but his ability to investigate the issues may soon be limited given that Republicans are expected to take over control of House committees in January

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