After a New York Times article claimed that the justice or his wife discussed the ruling on contraception and religious freedom before it was published, the Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating the potential leak of a Supreme Court decision from 2014 written by Justice Samuel Alito.
The charges are severe and “highlight once again the unforgivable ‘Supreme Court loophole’ in federal judicial ethics regulations,” according to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the committee.
Durbin said that it was unacceptable that judges on the highest court in the land were immune from the judicial code of ethics because powerful special interests were pouring millions of dollars into the shadows to sway the Court’s decisions.
According to The Associated Press, two additional congressmen, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) have also declared their intent to look into the alleged leak, calling the Times article “another black mark on the Supreme Court’s increasingly tarnished ethical record.”
The Rev. Rob Schenck, who once oversaw an evangelical group, was informed of the verdict in the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby weeks before it was made public, according to a Saturday New York Times report.
After dining with Alito and his wife, wealthy contributor Gayle Wright and her husband, according to Schenck, learned that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of Hobby Lobby.
According to the Hobby Lobby decision, for-profit businesses may refuse to cover employees’ contraception due to a religious objection. In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with Hobby Lobby, and Alito penned the majority opinion.
Alito has refuted the claims, telling The Times that while he and his wife did dine with the couple, any claims that they informed the Wrights of the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case or that they were the authors of the court’s opinion are “completely false.” Schenck’s account has also been refuted by Wright.
The announcement comes as the Supreme Court looks into how the draft opinion for the June Roe v. Wade and constitutional right to abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked.
Alito also contributed to the Dobbs decision’s majority opinion. The first case to ever be leaked to the general public was a draft that Politico published in May. The Times reports that Schenck informed Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court in a letter about the 2014 Hobby Lobby leak, but he has not heard back.