Supreme Court: ‘Nothing to Suggest’ Alito Leaked 2014 Decision

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
November 29, 2022Supreme Courtshare
Supreme Court: ‘Nothing to Suggest’ Alito Leaked 2014 Decision
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito poses in Washington on April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Pool via Reuters)

The U.S. Supreme Court says that there is no indication that Justice Samuel Alito leaked a 2014 decision.

A lawyer for the nation’s top court said in a letter to lawmakers on Nov. 28 that allegations Alito disclosed details about the decision to friends are “uncorroborated” and that Alito has denied being behind the leak.

“There is nothing to suggest that Justice Alito’s actions violated ethics standards,” Ethan Torrey, the lawyer, wrote. He was referring to the U.S. judiciary’s Code of Conduct, which says in part that judges should not disclose nonpublic information acquired as part of his or her duties.

Rev. Rob Schenck, a former pro-life activist who now supports women choosing to have an abortion, recently said that he received advance word of the ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the 2014 Supreme Court decision that found certain businesses do not have to cover birth control.

Schenck said that Alito conveyed details of the decision to Gayle Wright, who passed them along to him after she and her husband dined with Alito.

Schenck made the allegations in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, saying he wanted to come forward because of the investigation the court has launched into the leak of a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“Considering there may be a severe penalty to be paid by whoever is responsible for the initial leak of the recent draft opinion, I thought this previous incident might bear some consideration by you and others involved in the process,” Scheck, who recently called for Americans to vote for Democrats, and condemned the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs that struck down Roe v. Wade, wrote to Roberts.

Several Democrat lawmakers later wrote to Roberts and Torrey, demanding information on the purported earlier leak. The lawmakers, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), said that if Roberts would not probe the matter, then Congress would.

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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) speaks during a congressional hearing in Washington on Feb. 25, 2021. (Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images)

Denials

Both Alito and Wright have denied Schenck’s allegations.

“The allegation that the Wrights were told the outcome of the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, or the authorship of the opinion of the Court, by me or my wife is completely false,” Alito said in a statement to news outlets.

“My wife and I became acquainted with the Wrights some years ago because of their strong support for the Supreme Court Historical Society, and since then, we have had a casual and purely social relationship. I never detected any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything that I did in either an official or private capacity, and I would have strongly objected if they had done so.”

“It’s just not true. He didn’t discuss it at all,” Wright told the Washington Post. “It’s a cardinal rule. You don’t ask or discuss a case with a justice. They wouldn’t want to be your friends anymore.”

Wright’s husband, Don, is deceased.

In his response to the lawmakers, Torrey noted the denials.

“Justice Alito has said that neither he nor Mrs. Alito told the Wrights about the outcome of the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, or about the authorship of the opinion of the Court,” Torrey said. “Gail Wright [sic] has denied Mr. Schenck’s allegation in multiple interviews, saying the account given by Mr. Schenck was ‘patently not true.'”

The allegation that Scheck gave the Wrights a tip about the looming decision “is also uncorroborated,” Torrey noted.

That’s when he said there was no indication that Alito violated the Code of Conduct, which the court has said the justices adhere to voluntarily. Lower court judges are mandated to adhere to the code, but justices are not.

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The Supreme Court building in Washington on June 21, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Gifts

The rules on gifts include prohibiting the solicitation of gifts from a person who is doing business with the court.

Exceptions include “social hospitality based on personal relationships” and “modest items, such as food and refreshments, offered as a matter of social hospitality.”

The rules allow judges “to maintain normal personal friendships” while “preventing gifts that might undermine public confidence in the judiciary,” Torrey wrote.

The Wrights owned a real estate business in Ohio “and to our knowledge, they never had a financial interest in a matter before the Court,” he said. The Alitos did not receive any reportable gifts from the Wrights.

“Gifts of less than ‘minimal value’ received from one source in a calendar year need not be reported,” he wrote. “And gifts do not count toward this threshold if they take the form of food, lodging, or entertainment received as a personal hospitality of an individual, or food or beverages which are not consumed in connection with a gift of overnight lodging.”

From The Epoch Times

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