The Supreme Court released a report stating that, after a months-long internal investigation, the leaker of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade last year couldn’t be identified.
The leak shattered the image of the Supreme Court, which has long prided itself on maintaining proper decorum and on keeping as confidential the deliberations of the justices in cases argued before the court.
The day after the leak, Chief Justice John Roberts said there would be an investigation.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” he said at the time. “The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”
But despite his assurances, the unprecedented leak reportedly caused internal disruptions at the court and changed the atmosphere behind-the-scenes while giving rise to rampant speculation about the motives of the leaker or leakers.
Some said the leak was intended to generate a public backlash that would intimidate the conservative justices into leaving Roe intact, while others speculated that it was calculated to pressure the conservative justices, who had already signaled a willingness to reverse Roe, to stay the course and actually do it.
Supreme Court justices, including Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote both the draft and published versions of the opinion, previously described the leak of the document as a “grave betrayal.” In recent months, various justices said an update on the progress of the investigation was coming, but no updates followed until the formal release of the report.
The leak was followed by months of raucous protests at the homes of the conservative justices in Maryland and Virginia, targeted harassment of justices in public by left-wing activists, and angry words in Congress. One man was arrested and charged with plotting to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The report (pdf) on Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley’s investigation was issued midday on Jan. 19.