Supreme Court lawyer defends Justice Alito after denying 2014 leak allegation

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court’s chief legal counsel defended Justice Samuel Alito after top Democrats on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees publicly raised concerns about alleged breaches of ethics in the United States. ‘Alito, which Alito strongly denied.

“There is no suggestion that Judge Alito’s actions violated ethical standards,” court attorney Ethan V. Torrey wrote in a letter to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., and Rep. Hank Johnson. , D-Ga.

Lawmakers had demanded answers from the court after a former anti-abortion activist, the Reverend Rob Schenck, told the New York Times that he was given advance notice of a 2014 opinion written by Alito of a wealthy couple who had dined with Justice and his wife.

Schenck claimed Alito was the source of the leak.

He said he passed that account on to Chief Justice John Roberts in a letter after the court opened an investigation into the explosive leak of a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which five of the conservative justices of the court decided to put an end to the Constitution. right to abortion.

Dobbs’ draft opinion was first leaked and reported by Politico in May before being released by the Supreme Court on June 24. Alito was also the author of this majority opinion as he was in the 2014 case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which allowed some private companies to deny contraceptive coverage to employees on religious grounds.

Alito flatly denied Schenck’s accusation.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito poses during a group photo of Supreme Court justices in Washington, April 23, 2021.

Erin Schaff/Reuters, FILE

Torrey, the court’s legal counsel, reiterated the denial on his behalf in Monday’s letter, calling the allegation “unsubstantiated.”

He also cited the federal code of ethics to explain why, in the judge’s opinion, the social dinner described by Schenck was not inappropriate.

Judges are allowed to “maintain normal personal friendships,” Torrey wrote.

The letter was made public by the Supreme Court in response to questions about the lawmakers’ request, but is unlikely to stifle calls from critics for new regulations.

“Recent reporting from The New York Times … only heightens our concerns about the Court’s lack of adequate ethical and legal safeguards,” Johnson and Whitehouse wrote in a letter last week.

Judges are largely self-monitoring in matters of ethics and are not bound by an enforceable code of ethics.

ABC News’ Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

ABC News

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