Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was recently accused by Democrats and the media of acting unethically by leaking the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision prior to public release as part of a concerted effort by conservative activists to try and influence the nation’s highest court.
The Supreme Court’s legal counsel just rejected those “uncorroborated” allegations and asserted that Alito had not done anything outside the bounds of the court’s ethics standards, the Conservative Brief reported.
That statement came in response to a letter from two Democratic lawmakers that demanded answers and an investigation amid threats of possible legislative retribution against the high court.
Alito accused of leaking, acting unethically
According to Politico, the demand letter that also threatened congressional probes and other actions had been jointly sent to Chief Justice John Roberts by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), the respective chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary Courts Subcommittees.
That letter had cited reporting from the New York Times about former pro-life activist Rev. Robert Schenck who only this year, after the unprecedented leak of the Dobbs decision in May, that Justice Alito had in 2014 preemptively leaked the outcome of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, an opinion he had written which struck down Obamacare’s contraception mandate for small private businesses, to a conservative activist and mutual friend named Gail Wright.
The Democratic duo also raised questions about additional reporting from the Times, as well as Politico and Rolling Stone, about an alleged coordinated effort by conservative activists to ingratiate themselves with and exert influence upon the conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
Court says Alito didn’t leak 2014 decision
According to the Washington Examiner, both Justice Alito and Wright had instantly and repeatedly denied the allegation of a leak put forward by Schenck, and now that prior denial from the justice has been reiterated and expanded upon by Supreme Court legal counsel Ethan Torrey.
In a two-page letter to the Democratic lawmakers, Torrey wrote, “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.”
The attorney noted that Alito and Wright had a “casual and purely social relationship” for several years and that “The Justice never detected any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything he did in either an official or personal capacity.”
As for Schenck’s allegation of a leak, Torrey noted that it was “uncorroborated” and pointed out that even the Times admitted there were substantial “gaps” in his story and that Politico, despite months of digging, ultimately concluded that it was “unable to locate anyone who heard about the decision directly from either Alito or his wife before its release at the end of June 2014.”
Court says Alito didn’t violate ethics standards
With respect to the accusations of unethical lobbying, Torrey wrote, “There is nothing to suggest that Justice Alito’s actions violated ethics standards. Relevant rules balance preventing gifts that might undermine public confidence in the judiciary and allowing judges to maintain normal personal friendships.”
Of course, Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Johnson were not satisfied with that response, and said in a statement, per Politico, “Through legal counsel, the Supreme Court reiterated Justice Alito’s denials but did not substantively answer any of our questions. The Court’s letter is an embodiment of the problems at the Court around ethics issues. Unlike all other federal courts, there is no formal process for complaints; it took a Senator’s and a Congressman’s repeated letters to galvanize a response.”