20 November 2022

Corrupt as Hell


Remember when the decision for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization striking down the right to abortion was leaked to the press, and there was a furor over someone betraying the tradition of secrecy of the court??

After about a week or so, suddenly all the questions about who the leaker might be stopped.

There was a theory that his had happened because the leaker was the author of the decision, Justice Samuel Alito.

Well, now he have reports from whistleblowers showing that Alito leaked like a sieve:

As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.

In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.


Mr. Schenck’s allegation creates an unusual, contentious situation: a minister who spent years at the center of the anti-abortion movement, now turned whistle-blower; a denial by a sitting justice; and an institution that shows little outward sign of getting to the bottom of the recent leak of the abortion ruling or of following up on Mr. Schenck’s allegation.

The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.

Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”


In May, after the draft opinion in the abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, was leaked in what Justice Alito recently called “a grave betrayal,” the chief justice took the unusual step of ordering an investigation by the Supreme Court’s marshal. Two months later, Mr. Schenck sent his letter to Chief Justice Roberts, saying he believed his information about the Hobby Lobby case was relevant to the inquiry. He said he has not gotten any response.

In early June 2014, an Ohio couple who were Mr. Schenck’s star donors shared a meal with Justice Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann. A day later, Gayle Wright, one of the pair, contacted Mr. Schenck, according to an email reviewed by The Times. “Rob, if you want some interesting news please call. No emails,” she wrote.

But wait, there's more.  It appears that there is an ongoing pattern of inappropriate contacts, and inappropriate benefits accruing to Justices going back to Scalia's tenure:

Lawmakers are demanding further investigation at the Supreme Court and renewing their calls for binding ethics rules for the justices, after allegations that a landmark 2014 contraception decision was prematurely disclosed through a secretive influence campaign by anti-abortion activists.

“The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, wrote on Twitter. “At SCOTUS, the problems run deep.”


That decision — like the one leaked this spring, overturning the right to abortion — was written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Mr. Schenck said he learned the Hobby Lobby details from a donor who had dined with Justice Alito and his wife. Both the justice and the donor denied sharing the information.


The revelations underscored the lack of accountability mechanisms at the Supreme Court. Unlike other federal judges, the justices are not bound by a written code of ethics; legislation that would create one is pending in Congress.

“While there are many potential solutions, here’s one that the Court could adopt in one minute: OPERATE UNDER THE SAME ETHICS RULES AS EVERY OTHER FEDERAL JUDGE,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat and another member of the Judiciary Committee, tweeted in response to the Times report.


Ed Whelan, the head of a conservative legal group who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, said on Twitter that, while the private breach alleged by Mr. Schenck was a different scenario, “It’s long past time for Chief Justice to provide a report on what Dobbs leak investigation has uncovered.”


But other scholars and lawmakers said the Times investigation pointed to the need for new transparency rules. Mr. Schenck said that his “stealth missionary” operation was premised on the court’s lack of firmly enforced rules. The court is more permeable than it looks, he said, describing how his group reached the justices, including through their faith, meals together and invitations to vacation homes.

This is the first time that I've seen a Times article that even obliquely alludes to the gratuities that are a routine part of the life of the right-wing Supreme Court justices, and this is what Senator Whitehouse alludes to.

As to the question of how to enforce it, make the ethical standards legally binding, and allow the Department of Justice to prosecute violations.


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