WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court attorney dismissed allegations that Judge Samuel Alito may have shared with conservative activists the outcome of a 2014 case on contraceptive access before it was made public.
“There is nothing to indicate that Judge Alito’s actions violated ethical standards,” Supreme Court Counsel Ethan Torrey wrote in a letter responding to inquiries from two Democratic critics of the court’s ethical practices, Sen .Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Rep Hank Johnson of Georgia.
Lawmakers have pressured the court over reports in Politico and the New York Times that leaders of the Faith and Action group have launched a campaign to get close to conservative judges, including by making donations to the Supreme Court Historical Society, which they are to allowed exclusive social events where they could befriend the judges.
A former leader of the group, Rev. Rob Schenck, described the operation to news outlets and said he sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts in July alleging that a Faith and Action donor, Gayle Wright, had it Result of Burwell experienced v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. after she and her late husband Don had dinner with Justice Alito and his wife Martha-Ann Alito in early June 2014.
Judge Alito rewrote the majority opinion published in Hobby Lobby on June 30, 2014, which found by a vote of 5 to 4 that closely held private companies could invoke a federal religious liberty law to deny their female employees health insurance coverage for contraceptives required by the Affordable Care Act.
In May of that year, Judge Alito’s draft opinion setting aside Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision recognizing abortion rights, was released by Politico almost two months before the final advisory opinion was released. Chief Justice Roberts immediately announced an investigation into the leak, but the court has since released few details.
Mr Torrey in his Monday letter highlighted gaps in published accounts of the 2014 incident and said the people involved had denied allegations made by Mr Schenck, who has since broken with the anti-abortion movement.
“Judge Alito has said that neither he nor Mrs. Alito said anything to the Wrights about the outcome of the decision in the Hobby Lobby case or about the authorship of the court’s ruling. [Gayle] Wright has dismissed Mr. Schenck’s claim in several interviews, saying that Mr. Schenck’s account was ‘obviously untrue,'” Mr. Torrey wrote.
The attorney wrote, “The judiciary has never found any attempt by the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything he did in an official or private capacity.”
The Supreme Court is not required to follow the codes of ethics that bind lower federal courts, a fact Mr. Whitehouse, Mr. Johnson and other Democrats in Congress want to legislate to change. Mr. Torrey wrote that in no instance did Judge Alito’s conduct violate these codes or any relevant federal law.
Write to Jess Bravin at [email protected]
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