Lawmakers urge action after report of other SCOTUS leak

Democratic leaders on the hill are demanding answers from the Supreme Court after The New York Times reported this weekend another possible leak. 

It turns out the leak in May regarding the Dobbs draft decision may not have been the only decision leaked in recent years. On Saturday, The New York Times reported that Justice Samuel Alito may have leaked a 2014 decision allowing private companies to refuse birth control coverage for employees. Alito denies the allegation but the Times reports it was all part of a coordinated effort to get close to the conservative justices. Now, top Democrats are renewing calls for ethics reform on the high court. 

There is no formal code of ethics for the justices on the Supreme Court even though the rest of the judges in the federal courts are bound by one. In a letter first obtained by Politico, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Hank Johnson asked Chief Justice Roberts about a code of ethics for the court and demanded answers on the allegations made in the New York Times. 

Gabe Roth is the executive director of Fix the Court an organization that advocates for openness and accountability at the U.S. Supreme Court.  

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Roth said that the Supreme Court does nothing when there are ethics lapses of its members or simply waits and hopes that it goes away."

"I think we've reached a point where it's not going away, and we need to act in a serious manner to build back some of the faith those ethics lapses have caused in the last few years," Roth said. 

Supreme Court welcomes the public again, and a new justice

Although recent calls for ethics reform at the Supreme Court are largely from Democrats, the issue used to have bipartisan support. 

In 2016, Republicans criticized Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for derogatory comments about then-candidate Donald Trump. There were also calls for Justice Kagan to recuse herself from the Obamacare case after working in the administration. She did not. In May, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Supreme Court Ethics Recusal and Transparency Act along party lines.

Maryland's Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Supreme Court's budget. He says they are prepared to look at all options including tying conditions to the court's funding if they can't pass a law requiring a code of conduct. 

"We will look at all of our options here if the court continues to stonewall the public and continues to refuse to establish a code of ethics to establish some rules regarding transparency," Van Hollen said.