Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court is refuting a claim that he disclosed the outcome of a 2014 case involving contraception and religious freedoms in advance.
According to a Saturday New York Times article, Rev. Rob Schenck claimed to have learned about the outcome of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby weeks before the court made it public.
After having dinner with Justice Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, Gayle Wright, a donor to the evangelical nonprofit group Schenck was in charge of called Faith and Action, and her husband, Schenck claimed he was notified of the decision shortly after.
In the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which two for-profit businesses opposed a clause of the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception on the basis of their religious beliefs, Alito wrote the opinion. The court decided in favor of the two corporations.
“The accusation that the Wrights were told the outcome of the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, or the authorship of the opinion of the Court, by me or my wife is simply incorrect,” Alito said in a statement to ABC News.
We have maintained a casual and strictly social contact ever since, Alito claimed, adding that he and his wife met the Wrights “because of their strong support for the Supreme Court Historical Society.”
The Wrights were a part of Schenck’s strategy, he claimed to the Times, to get inside access to the Supreme Court through donations and favors for court “gatekeepers.”
The Wrights “never detected any effort on their behalf to get sensitive information or to influence anything that I did in either an official or private capacity, and I would have severely protested if they had done so,” Alito wrote in a statement to ABC News.
If those charges are accurate, Alito declared that he would be “shocked and insulted.”
In a phone interview with the Times, Gayle Wright likewise refuted getting or sharing any such information.
After the court launched an investigation into the shocking leak of a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which five of the court’s conservative justices decided to end the constitutional right to abortion, Schenck claimed he relayed this account to Chief Justice John Roberts in a letter.
Before the Supreme Court made the draft opinion public on June 24, it was leaked and originally published by Politico in May. A majority view was also written by Alito.
“Considering there may be a severe penalty to be paid by whoever is responsible for the initial leak of the recent draft opinion,” Schenck wrote to Roberts in the letter, which was also published by the Times. “I thought this previous incident might bear some consideration by you and other involved in the process.”
The Times revelation, according to the Alliance for Justice, a progressive legal advocacy group, adds to a growing list of ethical questions about the Supreme Court, including Ginni Thomas’ political engagement as the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.
According to Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Bro, “This Supreme Court’s extremism would be enough to cause the American people to lose faith in the judiciary and the rule of law, but the conservative justices are now doing something far worse by disobeying fundamental moral standards and giving credence to our greatest fear: that they are acting in concert with the most extreme elements of the conservative movement to advance an unpopular and un-American political agenda.”
For this shattered institution to earn back our trust, Brooks predicted that several significant modifications would be necessary.