Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Breach of Confidence at SCOTUS

Somewhat overshadowed by yesterday's news of Roe's imminent demise was the unprecedented nature of the leak to the press of an unpublished and confidential draft opinion in a pending case. After such a breach of trust committed by someone with access at U.S. Supreme Court, there is no telling what will happen going forward in terms of perceptions of integrity and legitimacy of this institution. The environment inside the building is sure to be tense. Outside the courthouse, erosion of public confidence in the third branch of government continues. As the Court states, its Justices circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work. Chief Justice Roberts in directing an investigation by the Marshal has revealed the draft to be authentic, but cautions it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case. He also states, "to the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way." Imagine what damage could be done to parties or their interests if the results of votes to any future case were routinely leaked. What if people traded on information from what was once considered kept a sacred place before justice was rendered? How about the rest of the federal and even state judiciary? For now, the Chief Justice still believes the Court has intensely loyal employees who remain dedicated to the rule of law. "Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court. This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here." See Court press release here-- https://www.supremecourt.gov/publicinfo/press/pressreleases/pr_05-03-22