Two Democratic members of Congress are demanding a probe into “serious allegations” that the outcome of a major Supreme Court case involving contraceptives was leaked ahead of time in 2014.
The allegations surfaced in a New York Times report over the weekend — in which former anti-abortion leader Rev. Rob Schenck claimed he was informed of the ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby weeks before it was publicly announced.
Schenck alleged two conservative activists had informed him of the pending ruling after that couple had dinner at the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his wife.
Alito, who authored both the Hobby Lobby opinion — which found for-profit companies have the right to deny contraceptive coverage to employees due to religious objections — and the June 24 opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, said any allegation that he or his wife leaked the 2014 decision was “completely false.”
Still, the claims sparked immediate calls for a probe of a Supreme Court still reeling from the leak of Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization earlier this year.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Saturday that the committee was “reviewing these serious allegations” — as he called on fellow members of Congress to pass a bill that would require the high court to adopt a code of ethics.
“It is unacceptable that members of the highest court in the land are exempted from the judicial code of ethics when wealthy special interests are spending millions of dollars in dark money to influence the Court’s decisions,” Durbin said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) — who chair congressional subcommittees dealing with courts — issued a separate statement calling the Times report “another black mark on the Supreme Court’s increasingly marred ethical record” and said they “intend to get to the bottom of these serious allegations.”
The Times’ story also included a letter that Schenck, who used to lead the Faith and Action evangelical nonprofit, said he wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts this past July alerting him to the alleged 2014 breach.
Schenck wrote that he thought the information could be relevant amid the investigation into the leak of the Dobbs draft opinion.
He was quoted by the Times as saying he had worked for years to gain access to the court before two of his donors, Ohio couple Donald and Gayle Wright, dined with Alito in June 2014.
Schenck claimed he used the advance knowledge of the ruling to prepare a public relations campaign and that he also tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby — a Christian evangelical-run craft store chain — that he would win the case.
Gayle Wright denied obtaining or passing along any such information, according to the Times.
Alito, too, emphatically denied the allegations.
“The allegation 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 completely false. My wife and I became acquainted with the Wrights some years ago because of their strong support for the Supreme Court Historical Society, and since then, we have had a casual and purely social relationship,” he said in a statement released by the court.
“I never detected any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything that I did in either an official or private capacity, and I would have strongly objected if they had done so. I have no knowledge of any project that they allegedly undertook for ‘Faith and Action,’ ‘Faith and Liberty,’ or any similar group, and I would be shocked and offended if those allegations are true.”
With Post wires