Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is denying allegations that he leaked the ruling of a landmark case in 2014.
In addition, denials from key players in the story and a lack of direct evidence corroborating the allegations cast significant doubt on the allegations.
What are the new allegations?
On Saturday, the New York Times published a letter written to Chief Justice John Roberts in July in which Rev. Rob Schenck claims he knew the outcome of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. before the court announced its ruling in the 2014 case.
The case is significant because it held that religious organizations can deny coverage for some contraceptives, in violation of Obamacare.
Schenck, whom Politico described as “once an evangelical minister and prominent anti-abortion activist” who “has since become disillusioned with the religious right,” claimed in his letter that a donor to his organization, Gayle Wright, told him after having dinner with the Alitos that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of Hobby Lobby.
Several weeks later, the court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor — and Alito wrote the majority opinion.
What about the evidence?
The allegations are explosive. But the New York Times uncovered no evidence directly proving Schenck’s claims.
“Mr. Schenck was not present at the meal and has no written record of his conversation with Mrs. Wright,” the Times reported.
There is, however, circumstantial evidence, such as vague emails and secondhand conversations, that would suggest Schenck had insider information, but none of it proves Alito leaked the ruling of the case.
Wright, in fact, has denied either receiving or passing along information related to any Supreme Court case.
“Being a friend or having a friendly relationship with a justice, you know that they don’t ever tell you about cases. They aren’t allowed to,” Wright told the Times. “Nor would I ask. There has never been a time in all my years that a justice or a justice’s spouse told me anything about a decision.”
In another interview with CNN, Wright called Schenck’s allegations “patently not true,” declaring that “this whole thing is unbelievably misconstrued.”
Rather telling is the fact that someone apparently had been shopping Schenck’s claims around different media outlets, and Politico — which published the leaked opinion overturning Roe v. Wade — was unable to verify Schenck’s claims. The outlet thus refused to run the story.
POLITICO spent several months attempting to corroborate Schenck’s claim published Saturday in The Times of a leak about the Hobby Lobby decision but was unable to locate anyone who heard about the decision directly from either Alito or his wife before its release at the end of June 2014.
What did Alito say?
Alito unequivocally denied leaking the outcome of the Hobby Lobby ruling.
“The allegation that the Wrights were told the outcome of the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, or the authorship of the opinion of the Court, by me or my wife is completely false,” Alito said in a statement.
“My wife and I became acquainted with the Wrights some years ago because of their strong support for the Supreme Court Historical Society, and since then, we have had a casual and purely social relationship. I never detected any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything that I did in either an official or private capacity, and I would have strongly objected if they had done so. I have no knowledge of any project that they allegedly undertook for ‘Faith and Action,’ ‘Faith and Liberty,’ or any similar group, and I would be shocked and offended if those allegations are true,” the statement added.
The person who leaked the opinion this May has yet to be caught despite an investigation.