WASHINGTON (AP) — The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said his panel is considering “serious allegations” in a report that a former anti-abortion leader knew in advance the outcome of a 2014 Supreme Court case involving the coverage of contraceptives in healthcare.
Saturday’s report in the New York Times follows the startling leak of a draft opinion earlier this year in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade, ending constitutional protections for abortion. That decision was authored by Judge Samuel Alito, who is also the author of the majority opinion in the 2014 case that is the focus of the new report.
In the Times story, Rev. Rob Schenck said he read the outcome of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores learned of the decision weeks before publication. In a 5-4 decision, Alito wrote that some companies with religious objections could circumvent contraceptive requirements in President Barack Obama’s health care legislation.
Schenck, who previously ran the group Faith and Action, said in other recent articles in Politico and Rolling Stone that he was part of a concerted effort to build social and spiritual ties with conservative judges.
In the Times story, Schenck said information about the Hobby Lobby’s decision came from Gail Wright, a donor at his organization who was part of public relations with the judges and had had dinner with Alito and his wife. In an interview with the Times, Wright himself denied having received or passed on any information.
The New York Times also published a letter in which Schenck said he wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts in July, alerting him to the alleged violation years ago. Schenck wrote that he felt the information might be relevant as part of an investigation into the leakage of the abortion decision.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Saturday that the committee is “looking into these serious allegations,” and he urged other members of Congress to pass legislation that would require the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics.
Two other Democrats, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, who are chairs of the court’s subcommittees, issued a statement describing the Times report as “another black spot in the increasingly clouded ethical landscape.” Record of the Supreme Court” and stated that they “intend”. Get to the bottom of these serious allegations.” They also pushed for the adoption of a code of ethics.
The Times story contained an emphatic denial from Alito that he had disclosed the outcome of the case. The court released Alito’s full statement to The Associated Press:
“The claim that the outcome of the Hobby Lobby decision or the authorship of the court’s judgment was communicated to the Wrights by me or my wife is utterly false. My wife and I met the Wrights a few years ago because of their strong support of the Supreme Court Historical Society, and we’ve had a casual and purely social relationship ever since.
“I have never noticed any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything I did in an official or private capacity, and I would have strongly objected if they had done so. I am not aware of any project that they claim to have engaged with Faith and Action, Faith and Liberty or any similar group and I would be shocked and insulted if these allegations were true,” the statement said.
Schenck’s Faith and Action group became Faith & Liberty after becoming part of the Liberty Counsel in 2018.
Alito was appointed to the High Court by President George W. Bush in 2006.