With a majority of its justices on the brink of flushing women’s right to an abortion down the toilet over the objections of a majority of the country, the Supreme Court seems to have its priorities in order: Find out who leaked the draft opinion on abortion to the press.
And, almost appropriately, it’s not too worried about potentially torpedoing the right to privacy of some young clerks in the process.
CNN reported today that after about a month of trying to figure out who gave the draft opinion to Politico, which then reported it to the public on May 2, the court’s investigation has entered an “unprecedented” new phase by asking for clerks to turn over their phone records and sign affidavits. That might help identify a leak, assuming one of the 18 clerks had anything to do with the leak and that they were brazen (or foolish) enough to use their personal phones in the process.
Otherwise, it could subject the clerks, who help the justices do legal research for their decisions, to intrusions into their personal lives by an employer, which also happens to be the most powerful piece of the judicial branch of government.
Some clerks are apparently so alarmed over the moves, particularly the sudden requests for private cell data, that they have begun exploring whether to hire outside counsel....
...Lawyers outside the court who have become aware of the new inquiries related to cell phone details warn of potential intrusiveness on clerks’ personal activities, irrespective of any disclosure to the news media, and say they may feel the need to obtain independent counsel.
“That’s what similarly situated individuals would do in virtually any other government investigation,” said one appellate lawyer with experience in investigations and knowledge of the new demands on law clerks. “It would be hypocritical for the Supreme Court to prevent its own employees from taking advantage of that fundamental legal protection.”
Beyond the potential hypocrisy, the leak investigation also appears to be a more cynical step by a court that’s lurched toward far-right conservatism. While the majority of Americans support the right to an abortion—a question that was supposed to have been answered for good by the Court’s decision in Roe—the majority now appear bent on siding with conservative state legislators and governors who have been hellbent on banning abortions for a generation.
In the meantime, the Court could be headed toward other decisions that are out of step with where the rest of the country stands, all while having their own interests protected. After the revelation of the draft, Congress quickly authorized security details to protect the justices’ homes from protestors. And while the country reels from a series of mass killings by racists and lunatics with assault rifles, the right-leaning Court is also expected to drop a ruling soon on whether the state of New York’s strict regulations on carrying concealed handguns can remain in place.