Supreme Court inquiry finds no treat in abortion ruling

Pro-abortion rights protesters protest outside the United States Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization abortion case, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision, in Washington, United States, June 24, 2022.

Jim Castle | Reuters

An investigation into the leak of a Supreme Court bombshell ruling overturning the federal constitutional right to abortion — weeks before it was officially released — failed to identify the culprit, the court said Thursday.

The inability to find the source of the leak was another embarrassing development for the Supreme Court, which on Thursday called the advisory’s early disclosure “one of the worst breaches of trust in its history” and “a grave assault on the court process.”

Investigators interviewed nearly 100 Supreme Court staffers as part of the investigation, 82 of whom had access to electronic or printed copies of Conservative Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion.

Politico reported on May 2 that it had received a leaked copy of that opinion, showing the Supreme Court was ready to overturn its five-decade-old ruling in the Roe v. Wade’s known case which found there was a constitutional right to abortion. This draft was first distributed to judges and clerks on February 2. 10

In June, just as the leaked report suggested, the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion authored by Alito, declared that there is no federal law on abortion. The opinion came in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, who challenged Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law.

After the leak, Chief Justice John Roberts directed Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley to investigate who leaked the draft opinion to Politico.

“In pursuing all available leads … the Marshal’s team conducted additional forensic analysis and conducted several follow-up interviews with certain staff members,” the Supreme Court said Thursday in a statement, accompanied by the release of Curley’s report and the probe.

“But the team has not been able to identify anyone responsible through a preponderance of evidence,” the court said.

Curley’s report suggests that the leaker was almost certainly a member of the court staff, noting that “the investigation has found that it is highly unlikely that a person outside the court was improperly accessing the information technology (IT) systems of the court.” court has accessed”.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito poses during a group photo of Supreme Court justices in Washington, April 23, 2021.

Erin Schaff | swimming pool | Reuters

In her 20-page report, Curley said investigators examined the court’s computer equipment, networks, printers and “available call and text logs.”

But “Investigators have found no forensic evidence to indicate who published the draft opinion,” Curley wrote.

She also noted that her team of attorneys and federal investigators “conducted 126 formal interviews with 97 employees, all of whom declined to disclose comment.”

“Despite these efforts, investigators were unable at this time to release the identity of the individual(s) who drafted the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org Opinion to Politico,” Curley wrote.

The report said that after initial interviews with court officials, each staffer was asked to sign an affidavit stating that they did not disclose Dobbs’ draft opinion to anyone not employed by the Supreme Court. Some staffers admitted they told their spouses about the draft or the judges’ vote count in the case, the report said.

The report also says that among other steps taken in the investigation, “the investigative team received external assistance with a fingerprint analysis of an item relevant to the investigation.”

“This analysis revealed usable fingerprints but no matches to fingerprints of interest,” the report said, without disclosing the nature of the item examined.

The Supreme Court said in its statement that after the investigation concluded, the court invited Michael Chertoff, a former federal judge and prosecutor and former Secretary of Homeland Security, to hear Curley’s investigation.

Chertoff “has informed that the Marshal ‘conducted a thorough investigation’ and ‘[a]”At this time I cannot identify any additional useful investigative actions that have not been conducted or are ongoing,” the court said.

The statement said investigators will continue to review some electronic data collected for the investigation “and some other investigations are pending.”

Curley said in her report, “To the extent additional investigations uncover new evidence or leads, investigators will pursue them.”

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Curley also wrote that the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting expansion in court staff’s ability to work from home “as well as gaps in the court’s security policies have created an environment in which it has been too easy to obtain sensitive information.” removed from the building and the court’s IT networks.”

This, in turn, increases “the risk of both intentional and inadvertent disclosure of court confidential information,” the report says.

Curley wrote that “too many” court officials have access to sensitive documents and that there is “no universal written policy or guidance” to protect draft opinions.

She also wrote that the court’s current method of destroying confidential court documents has weaknesses that should be addressed” and that “the court’s information security policies are outdated and need to be clarified and updated.”

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