The Supreme Court said Thursday it has not determined who leaked a draft of the court's opinion overturning abortion rights in May, but that the investigation continues.
Eight months after Politico published its explosive leak detailing the draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, the court said its investigative team “has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Never before had an entire opinion made its way to the public before the court was ready to announce it.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced an investigation the day after the publication of the leaked opinion. He called it "a singular and egregious breach" of the Supreme Court's trust "that is an affront to the court and the community of public servants who work here."
Roberts in announcing the investigation defended the court's workforce as "intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law," adding that court employees have a tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process. Roberts on May 5 called the leak "absolutely appalling" and said that if the person behind it believed it would affect the work of the court "that's just foolish."
The leak prompted an internal crisis at the court and ignited a political firestorm, with abortion rights supporters staging rallies outside the courthouse and at various locations around the United States.
It was an unprecedented violation of the nine-member court's tradition of confidentiality in the behind-the-scenes process of making rulings after hearing oral arguments in cases.
Investigators “conducted 126 formal interviews of 97 employees, all of whom denied disclosing the opinion,” the court said.
The investigation concluded that it “is unlikely that the Court’s information technology (IT) systems were improperly accessed by a person outside the Court.”
"In time, continued investigation and analysis may produce additional leads that could identify the source of the disclosure," stated the report, prepared by the Supreme Court marshal Gail Curley at the direction of the chief justice.
"Whether or not any individual is ever identified as the source of the disclosure, the court should take action to create and implement better policies to govern the handling of court-sensitive information and determine the best IT systems for security and collaboration."
The leak investigation was conducted at a time of increased scrutiny of the court and concerns about an erosion of its legitimacy, with opinion polls showing dropping public confidence in the institution. Only 43% of Americans have a favorable view of the court, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Jan. 13-15, down from 50% last May.
After examining the court's computer devices, networks, printers and available call and text logs, investigators have found no forensic evidence indicating who disclosed the draft opinion, the report said.
"At this time, based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, it is not possible to determine the identity of any individual who may have disclosed the document or how the draft opinion ended up with Politico," the report stated.
Investigators are continuing to “review and process some electronic data that has been collected and a few other inquiries remain pending,” the report said.
Reporting from Reuters and The Associated Press was used to compile this report.
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