Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has denied involvement in disclosing a 2014 court ruling to a former anti-abortion activist following a report from the New York Times that a leak has occurred.
Several news outlets reported that Alito issued a statement denying that he or his wife had early disclosed the court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a case about contraception and religious rights.
The Times reported that the Reverend Rob Schenck learned of the court’s decision in the case weeks before it was published. He said he learned of the decision from Gayle Wright, a donor to the evangelical organization Schenck led at the time.
Wright and her husband had dinner with Alito and his wife, and a day later Wright emailed Schenck telling him to call him if he wanted “any interesting news.” The email was reviewed by The Times.
Schenck said Wright told him the court would rule in favor of Hobby Lobby, ruling that for-profit companies can deny birth control coverage to 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 The Hill’s requests for comment.
Alito said in his statement that he and his wife had a “casual and purely social relationship” with the Wrights. He said he met them for a meal in June 2014, as Schenck claims, but did not share the outcome of the case.
Wright also denied to The Times having received or shared information about the court’s decision.
The Times reported interviewing four people who said Schenck told them about the leak years ago, and emails the outlet reviewed suggest he had confidential information and was preparing staff of his organization to a victory.
The revelation comes months after the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the court overturned federal abortion rights established in Roe v. Wade, was released early. Chief Justice John Roberts condemned the leak at the time and announced the court would open an investigation into the source, but the court has remained largely silent on the status of the investigation since then.
Polls have shown a sharp decline in public trust in the court since the leak and the court’s eventual decision overturning Roe.
Schenck told The Times that he used this information to prepare a public relations campaign.
The Times reported that Schenck informed Roberts of the leak in the Hobby Lobby case in July, sharing that he briefed Hobby Lobby’s CEO on what he knew a day or two before the court issued its decision.
Schenck’s views on abortion have changed since then, and he is trying to establish himself as a progressive evangelical leader. He told The Times he decided to speak out now because of the regret he felt for what had happened.
“What we did was wrong,” he said.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) slammed the court on Twitter on Saturday for launching an investigation after Dobbs leaked but appearing not to act on it or whether Judge Clarence Thomas was aware of his wife Ginni Thomas’ efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in some states.