WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court was unable to find out on Thursday after an eight-month investigation who leaked a draft of its blockbuster ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. In defense proceedings in the highest judicial system of the United States.
The leak — which the news outlet Politico published a draft ruling on May 2 — sparked an internal crisis at the court, fueled a political firestorm and sparked rallies by abortion rights supporters on the courthouse, outside and around the homes of some of the nine justices. Country.
The investigation, detailed in a 20-page report, found that 82 court employees and judges had access to electronic or hard copies of a draft opinion written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito that differed slightly from the final decision. June 24.
An investigation led by the court’s chief security officer, Gail Curley, under the direction of Chief Justice John Roberts, did not identify evidence of the leak, and none of the 97 court employees interviewed admitted to the disclosure. The report did not make clear whether the judges were interviewed at the hearing.
Some employees have admitted to their spouses or partners that the report found the draft opinion and how the justices voted violated the court’s confidentiality rules.
The leak marks an unprecedented breach of the court’s tradition of secrecy behind the scenes of delivering judgments after hearing oral arguments in cases.
The report criticized some of the court’s internal security protocols.
After examining court computer equipment, networks, printers and available call and text records, investigators found no forensic evidence to identify the leaker, the report said. The report faulted the court for maintaining systems based on trust with few safeguards to restrict access to sensitive information.
“The pandemic and the resulting expansion of the ability to work from home, as well as gaps in the court’s security policies, created an environment that made it much easier to remove sensitive information from the building and the court’s IT (information technology) networks. The risk of intentional and accidental disclosure of sensitive court information,” the report said.
The report said the investigation will continue following any new leads to identify the culprit. It added that investigators have “nothing to confirm” that speculation spread on social media that a specific individual or law clerk was the leaker.
Regardless of whether the leaker is identified, the report recommended that the court “develop and implement better policies for handling court-sensitive information and determine better IT systems for security and cooperation.”
The trial came amid increased scrutiny by the court and concern about its legal erosion. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Jan. 13-15, only 43% of Americans have a favorable view of the court, down from 50% last May.
The disclosure of a “court report” accompanying the report was one of the worst breaches of trust in its history.
“The leak is not a misguided attempt at protest. It is a serious attack on the judiciary,” the statement said.
Roberts and the court faced criticism for failing to solve the mystery.
“So the Supreme Court arbitrarily digs into law clerks’ Google history, downloads their phone data, records some fingerprints? And even with these intrusions, they report essentially nothing? My question is how closely did the justices scrutinize. A possible culprit in the leak?” asked Gabe Roth, president of the Fix the Court group, which advocates for court reform.
Gary Cervino, president of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, wrote on Twitter that it “reflects a complete failure of the chief justice on the executive side of his role.”
Brian Fallon, co-founder of the liberal legal group Demand Justice, said the court should reveal whether judges were interviewed in the investigation, saying some of them and their spouses could be prime suspects.
“The idea that the justices themselves may have been excluded from the investigation undermines the credibility of the entire effort. In the end, it seems like the Supreme Court is more concerned with protecting its own members than judging this whodunit,” Fallon said.
Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff called Curley’s investigation “thorough” when he tapped to evaluate it.
The ruling upheld a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and ended recognition of a woman’s right to an abortion under the U.S. Constitution. Many Republican-controlled states quickly enacted abortion bans.
Alito found himself embroiled in another leak controversy in November after the New York Times reported the anti-abortion leader’s assertion that he had been informed in advance of how the court would rule in a major 2014 case involving insurance coverage for women’s birth control.
Any allegation that he or his wife leaked the 2014 decision is “absolutely false,” Alito said.
Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York, Nate Raymond in Boston and John Krusel in Washington; Additional reporting by Jason Long in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham
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