The Supreme Court released a report Thursday after its Marshal spent months attempting to determine who leaked a draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in which the conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade.
“After months of diligent analysis of forensic evidence and interviews of almost 100 employees, the Marshal’s team determined that no further investigation was warranted with respect to many of the ‘82 employees [who] had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion,’” the introduction read.
The team was unable to identify a person responsible.
“The investigation has determined that it is unlikely that the Court’s information technology (IT) systems were improperly accessed by a person outside the Court,” the Marshal said in her report. “After examining the Court’s computer devices, networks, printers, and available call and text logs, investigators have found no forensic evidence indicating who disclosed the draft opinion.”
According to the report, the draft of the opinion that was ultimately leaked was circulated on February 10. Politico published the leaked draft on May 2, and the final decision was officially released in June.
“The investigation focused on Court personnel — temporary (law clerks) and permanent employees — who had or may have had access to the draft opinion during the period from the initial circulation until the publication by Politico,” the report said. The report does not say explicitly whether the Justices were also investigated, though it suggests they were not.
The Supreme Court did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the extent to which the Justices were investigated.
In a statement attached to the document, former Bush administration Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that Chief Justice John Roberts had tasked him with verifying that the Supreme Court’s investigation was rigorous.
“My review assessed that the Marshal and her experienced investigators undertook a thorough investigation within their legal authorities,” he said.
Investigators in the report said that they found no evidence to suggest that that any court employees had emailed the Dobbs draft to anyone except other staffers, but remarked that “technical limitations in the Court’s computer record keeping at the time made it impossible to rule out this possibility entirely,” partly because “at the time the system lacked substantial logging and search functions.”
Other avenues of investigation included seeing whether any employees had looked up “the legality of disclosing confidential case-related information” on legal search engines. That also turned up nothing. In interviews with staff, the report said, everyone the investigators spoke to denied being the source for Politico.
The investigators added that if any of those employees are later found to have lied, they could be subject to prosecution after signing sworn affidavits.
Very few employees interviewed, per the report, “were willing to speculate on how the disclosure could have occurred or who might have been involved.”
The report stays mostly mum on what leads the investigation did obtain, saying only that they include “IT forensics” and generally did not come from the interviews. It does, however, note that investigators found an unidentified “item relevant to the investigation” with “viable fingerprints.” No matches were identified, the report says.
The investigators closely watched employees who had relationships with reporters.
“They especially scrutinized any contacts with anyone associated with Politico,” the report read.
An overview of people who showed behavior that the investigation deemed worthy of further investigation included previous “violation of confidentiality rules,” as well as a “disgruntled attitude, claimed stres[s],” and, notably, “anger at the Court’s decision.”
Read the report here: