SCOTUS Marshal's Investigation Inconclusive on Dobbs Leaker's Identity

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that after months of looking into the source of the leaked opinion in the landmark abortion ruling, Dobbs v. Jackson Womens Health Organization, there is no identifiable suspect.

As National Review explained, the investigation had been ongoing since last May:

On May 5, 2022, a few days after Politico published a draft copy of the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Marshal of the Supreme Court Gail Curley launched a probe at Chief Justice John Robert’s direction. Almost 100 employees of the Court, 82 of whom had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion, were interviewed, according to the report.

The [Marshal] determined that it was unlikely that someone outside the Court sabotaged its information technology systems. All 97 employees who spoke to investigators denied leaking the document.

The report noted that the pandemic and remote-work transition created a precarious environment for potential security breaches, “increasing the risk of both deliberate and accidental disclosures of Court-sensitive information.”

The investigative team, composed of seasoned attorneys and trained federal investigators, also analyzed forensic evidence and conducted follow-up interviews, none of which pointed to a clear guilty party.

After the initial inquiry failed to [produce] a suspect, the Court consulted Michael Chertoff, a judge, U.S. Attorney, and assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice, to assess the marshal’s investigation. Chertoff concluded that the investigation was thorough and could not recommend any extra steps not already undertaken or underway.

Despite not identifying the leaker, the investigation hopefully will lead to much needed changes in the Court’s security protocols. Bloomberg Law explained that Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered a review of current practices as it relates to document management and security:

Chief Justice John Roberts has asked for a “comprehensive review” of the court’s information and document practices and an outside expert recommended limiting the distribution of hard-copy opinion drafts as well as the dissemination of sensitive information via email and mobile devices.

Those are among the measures recommended by Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security Secretary and federal appeals court judge who was brought in to review the Supreme Court Marshal’s investigation. Chertoff clerked for one-time Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.

Chertoff also recommended that the court utilize “information rights management” tools to control the use and sharing of sensitive information.

“While there is not sufficient evidence at present for prosecution or other legal action, there were important insights gleaned from the investigation that can be acted upon to avoid future incidents,” Chertoff wrote.

As to be expected, few are satisfied with the outcome of the report.

It is now likely that House Republicans will conduct their own investigation into the unprecedented leak that put the safety of the Justices and the legitimacy of the Court at risk.