Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has denied that he was involved in the leaking of a 2014 court ruling to a former anti-abortion activist following a New York Times report that a leak occurred.
Multiple news outlets reported that Alito issued a statement denying that he or his wife disclosed the court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a case on contraception and religious rights, early.
The Times reported that the Rev. Rob Schenck learned about the court’s decision in the case weeks before it was released. He said he learned of the ruling from Gayle Wright, a donor to the evangelical organization that Schenck ran at the time.
Wright and her husband had a meal with Alito and his wife, and a day later, Wright sent Schenck an email telling him to call her if he wanted “some interesting news.” The email was reviewed by the Times.
Schenck said that Wright told him the court would rule in favor of Hobby Lobby, deciding that for-profit companies can deny contraception coverage for employees based on a religious objection.
The court ultimately ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby.
Schenck and the court did not immediately return requests from The Hill for comment.
Alito said in his statement that he and his wife have a “casual and purely social relationship” with the Wrights. He said he did meet with them for a meal in June 2014 as Schenck claims but that he did not share the outcome of the case.
Wright also denied to the Times that she received or shared the information about the court’s ruling.
The Times reported that it interviewed four people who said that Schenck told them about the leak years ago, and emails that the outlet reviewed suggest that he had confidential information and was preparing the staff of his organization for a win.
The revelation comes months after the court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the court overturned federal abortion rights established in Roe v. Wade, was leaked early. Chief Justice John Roberts condemned the leak at the time and announced that the court would launch an investigation into the source, but the court has been largely quiet on the status of the investigation since then.
Polls have shown a sharp drop in the public’s trust in the court since the leak and the court’s eventual ruling overturning Roe.
Schenck told the Times that he used the information to prepare a public relations campaign.
The Times reported that Schenck notified Roberts of the leak in the Hobby Lobby case in July, sharing that he informed Hobby Lobby’s CEO about what he knew a day or two before the court released its ruling.
Schenck’s views on abortion have shifted since then, and he is trying to establish himself as a progressive evangelical leader. He told the Times that he decided to speak out now because of the regret he feels for what happened.
“What we did was wrong,” he said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) slammed the court on Twitter on Saturday for launching an investigation after the Dobbs leak but appearing not to act in this situation or with whether Justice Clarence Thomas knew of the efforts of his wife, Ginni Thomas, to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in certain states.