OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
There’s been another development in the U.S. Supreme Court’s investigation into who might have leaked a draft opinion in the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson case last May.
In an op-ed for the National Review titled, “The Left’s Assault on Judicial Independence Is Going to Get Someone Killed,” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz warned that “progressive efforts to intimidate federal judges is dangerous not only to democracy but to the judges themselves,” arguing that the justice’s lives could be at risk.
“Recently, the Washington Post printed an op-ed that called for a campaign of ‘shaming’ federal judges who dared to reach legal conclusions that differ from the author’s desired outcome. Through this ‘shame’ campaign, the author hopes the targeted judges will deliver rulings closer to what he prefers. This naked call for harassment is just the latest attempt by the Left to intimidate its enemies and politicize the Court,” Cruz wrote.
This, however, hasn’t stopped leading Democrats and activists from making threats against the federal judiciary. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) threatened sitting Supreme Court justices by name, stating, “I want to tell you, Gorsuch; I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” When the Dobbs draft was leaked, Ian Millhiser, a senior correspondent at Vox, tweeted, “The draft Roe opinion appears to be as bad as expected, but I’m glad it leaked because this leak will foster anger and distrust within the irredeemable institution that is the Supreme Court of the United States,” and, “Seriously, shout out to whoever the hero was within the Supreme Court who said ‘f—k it! Let’s burn this place down.”
The Washington Post op-ed acknowledges that campaigns to shame judges could lead to violence. Make no mistake: This threat of violence is very real. Organized protest groups targeted Supreme Court justices at their homes in an attempt to pressure them into changing their ruling in the Dobbs case before it was released but after the draft opinion had been leaked. Things predictably spiraled out of control. Authorities arrested a man armed with a gun, a knife, and burglary tools who traveled from California to Maryland to murder Justice Kavanaugh in his home.
The Supreme Court investigation into who leaked the decision that ended Roe v. Wade revealed terrifying details.
The security of documents at the Supreme Court was minimal and included what are called “burn bags” that were simply left in hallways, CNN reported.
“Long before the leak of a draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade, some Supreme Court justices often used personal email accounts for sensitive transmissions instead of secure servers set up to guard such information, among other security lapses not made public in the court’s report on the investigation last month,” CNN Supreme Court Reporter Ariane de Vogue said.
“New details revealed to CNN by multiple sources familiar with the court’s operations offer an even more detailed picture of yearslong lax internal procedures that could have endangered security, led to the leak, and hindered an investigation into the culprit,” the reporter said.
“Supreme Court employees also used printers that didn’t produce logs – or were able to print sensitive documents off-site without tracking – and ‘burn bags’ meant to ensure the safe destruction of materials were left open and unattended in hallways,” she said.
“This has been going on for years,” a former employee said.
Another said that the justices were “not masters of information security protocol.”
The Supreme Court released its report last month into who might have leaked the draft opinion, which overturned the Court’s controversial precedent in Roe v. Wade on a “constitutional right” to abortion and returned the issue to the states.
The investigation concluded without identifying the source of the leak to Politico last year:
The investigation by the marshal of the Supreme Court included a forensic investigation of laptops and phones but found “no relevant information from these devices.” The marshal’s office determined that 82 employees had access to the opinion and interviewed 97 employees, all of whom denied leaking the opinion.
Several have pointed out that it seems odd that none of the justices appear to have been interviewed in the investigation:
It is no exaggeration to say that the integrity of judicial proceedings depends on the inviolability of internal deliberations.
For these reasons and others, the Court immediately and unanimously agreed that the extraordinary betrayal of trust that took place last May warranted a thorough investigation. The Chief Justice assigned the task to the Marshal of the Supreme Court and her staff. After months of diligent analysis of forensic evidence and interviews of almost 100 employees, the Marshal’s team determined that no further investigation was warranted with respect to many of the “82 employees [who] had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion.” Marshal’s Report of Findings & Recommendations 11 (Jan. 19, 2023). In following up on all available leads, however, the Marshal’s team performed additional forensic analysis and conducted multiple follow-up interviews of certain employees. But the team has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence. Id., at 17. A public version of the Marshal’s report is attached.
In addition, the marshal investigated connections between employees and contacts in the media, with a particular focus on Politico. They also followed up on social media claims of who might have leaked the decision, but “investigators found nothing to substantiate any of the social media allegations.”
“Some individuals admitted to investigators that they told their spouse or partner about the draft Dobbs opinion and the vote count, in violation of the Court’s confidentiality rules,” the investigation reads.
The report states that the court conducted interviews with nearly 100 employees, but does not discuss any interviews of the justices themselves.