Justice Alito denies allegation he was involved in a 2014 Supreme Court leak

The allegation was reported by the New York Times.

November 19, 2022, 7:49 PM

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is denying an allegation that he revealed in advance the decision of a 2014 case regarding contraceptives and religious rights.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Rev. Rob Schenck said he learned about the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby weeks before it was announced by the court.

Schenck said he was informed of the decision soon after Gayle Wright, a donor to the evangelical nonprofit organization he was running called Faith and Action, and her husband had dinner with Justice Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito.

Alito authored the opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the court ruled in favor of two for-profit corporations that objected on religious grounds to a provision of the Affordable Cart Act that requires employers to provide health insurance that includes contraception coverage.

In a statement to ABC News, Alito said 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."

Alito said he and his wife became acquainted with the Wrights "because of their strong support for the Supreme Court Historical Society, and since then, we have had a casual and purely social relationship."

Schenck told the Times that the Wrights were part of his effort to gain inside access to the Supreme Court, which he said he did through donors and by doing favors for court "gatekeepers."

In his statement to ABC News, Alito said he "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."

Alito said he'd be "shocked and offended if those allegations are true."

PHOTO: Associate Justice Samuel Alito sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington April 23, 2021.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington April 23, 2021.
Pool/Getty Images, FILE

Gayle Wright also denied obtaining or passing along any such information in a phone interview with the Times.

Schenck said he relayed this account to Chief Justice John Roberts in a letter after the court opened an investigation into the bombshell 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.

The draft opinion was leaked and reported first by Politico in May before it was released by the Supreme Court on June 24. Alito was also the author of the majority opinion.

In the letter, also published by the Times, Schenck wrote to Roberts: "Considering there may be a severe penalty to be paid by whoever is responsible for the initial leak of the recent draft opinion, I thought this previous incident might bear some consideration by you and others involved in the process."

Alliance for Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, said the Times report adds to a growing list of ethical concerns surrounding the Supreme Court -- including the political activism of Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.

"This Supreme Court's extremism would be enough reason for 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 flouting basic standards of propriety and lending 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," Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks said in a statement in response to the Times report.

"It will take several major reforms to restore our trust in this broken institution," Brooks said.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

Related Topics