According to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman, his panel is looking into “serious accusations” in a report claiming a former anti-abortion figure knew in advance how the Supreme Court would rule in a 2014 case involving healthcare coverage for contraceptives.
The shocking leak of a draft opinion in the case in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Wade and eliminated constitutional safeguards for abortion earlier this year was followed by the New York Times report published on Saturday. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who also authored the majority opinion in the 2014 case at the core of the latest report, wrote that judgment.
The Rev. Rob Schenck claimed in the New York Times article that he was informed of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case’s verdict weeks before it was made public. In a 5-4 judgment, Alito stated that some businesses with religious restrictions can opt out of President Obama’s health care law’s contraception requirement.
In other recent stories in Politico and Rolling Stone, Schenck, the former leader of the organization Faith and Action, claimed to have been a part of a coordinated effort to build social and ministry ties with conservative justices.
Chenck claimed that Gail Wright, a donor to his organization who participated in the outreach attempt to the justices and had dinner with Alito and his wife, provided knowledge about the Hobby Lobby decision. Wright vehemently denied acquiring or disclosing any information in a media interview.
Schenck claimed that he informed Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. of the alleged violation in a letter sent to him in July. As part of an investigation into the leak of the abortion judgment, Schenck wrote that he believed the material might be pertinent.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), said in a statement on Saturday that the committee is “reviewing these serious claims” and urged other members of Congress to approve legislation requiring the adoption of an ethics code by the Supreme Court.
In a joint statement, two fellow Democrats who serve as chairs of courts subcommittees, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, called the article “another black mark on the Supreme Court’s increasingly marred ethical record” and stated that they “intend to get to the bottom of these serious allegations.” They also pushed for the adoption of an ethical code.
“It is utterly incorrect to say that either my wife or I informed the Wrights of the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case’s ruling or who wrote the court’s conclusion. Because of the Wrights’ ardent support for the Supreme Court Historical Society, my wife and I first met them a number of years ago. Since then, our friendship has been entirely casual.
“I never noticed the Wrights making any attempt to learn sensitive information or to sway anything I did, either in my official or personal capacity, and I would have firmly objected if they had. I have no knowledge of any project that they are said to have worked on for ‘Faith and Action,’ ‘Faith and Liberty,’ or any other organization of a similar nature, and if those accusations are accurate, I would be astonished and outraged,” it stated.
When Schenck’s Faith and Action organization joined the Liberty Counsel in 2018, it changed its name to Faith & Liberty.
George W. Bush appointed Alito to the Supreme Court in 2006.