Supreme Court Marshal Unable To Identify Dobbs Opinion Leaker

After several months of investigation, the Supreme Court announced on Thursday that it has been unable to identify the leaker of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson last year. The official ruling in Dobbs issued in June 2022 overruled the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and closely mirrored the leaked draft.

The draft opinion was published on May 2, 2022, by Politico. The unprecedented leak previewed the ruling issued in June that overruled the Roe decision that had found a Constitutional right to abortion on demand. The Dobbs ruling returned the power to regulate or prohibit abortion to each state individually.

Chief Justice John Robers said that the person or persons responsible had committed an “egregious breach of trust.” He directed the Marshal of the Court to investigate the matter and attempt to find the source of the leak.

The Marshal’s report indicated that the team of investigators conducted interviews with more than 100 court employees, all of whom denied being involved with the leak.

Sources reportedly said that the initial focus of the investigation was on the three dozen law clerks who work directly for individual justices. In addition to interviews, the clerks were asked to turn over their mobile devices for inspection.

The report concludes that the Marshal has been “unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.”

The Marshal did find that it is “unlikely that the Court’s information technology (IT) systems were improperly accessed by a person outside the Court.” It says no forensic evidence of the source was found after searching the “Court’s computer devices, networks, printers, and available call and text logs.”

However, the report indicates there were security vulnerabilities presented by the significant number of people working on sensitive material from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those “gaps in the Court’s security policies created an environment where it was too easy to remove sensitive information from the building and the Court’s IT networks.”

The court’s Law Clerk Code of Conduct provides that “temptation to discuss interesting pending or decided cases among friends, spouses, or other family members must be scrupulously resisted.” The Marshal found that some personnel managed material in the Dobbs case “in ways that deviated from their standard process for handling draft opinions.”

The Marshal said she spoke with each of the justices as part of the investigation. However, unlike other staff, they were not asked to swear under penalty of perjury that they had no knowledge of the source of the leak. She added that she did not think it was necessary to have the justices sign the same sworn affidavit as every other person interviewed.

The report says that the investigative team “continue following up on leads if more information is learned.”


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