- The Supreme Court is investigating a leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
- The lawyers, fearing for their professional future, seek legal advice on the investigation.
- The tensions come on top of reports of growing hostility within the High Court, including the judges.
Tensions continue to mount at the Supreme Court since a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked last month, breaking long-standing precedent and drawing criticism from the judges.
As an investigation into the leak unfolds, judges’ clerks are scared and frantically consulting with lawyers, according to a report by Nina Totenberg of NPR, who has covered legal cases and the High Court for decades.
“I don’t know how on earth the court is going to complete its work this quarter,” a source close to the court told NPR. The source said the clerks act as something of a diplomat between the judges, who at this point in the year would usually work together to settle disagreements over cases.
But, the source said, in addition to the growing mistrust between the judges, the clerks are so terrified that their professional lives will be threatened as the investigation into the leak unfolds, that communication between them is strained.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced an investigation into the leak after Politico released the 98-page draft notice last month. The draft showed a majority of justices set to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade which enshrined the constitutional right to abortion.
While the leak itself may not be an actual crime, CNN reported last week that the clerks were asked to hand over their cellphone data and sign sworn affidavits, in which lying would be illegal. .
Clerks are now “lawyers” and consult with law firms accordingly, NPR reported Wednesday. The outlet added that clerks who seek legal advice also raise ethical questions, since some of the companies they consult have cases before the Supreme Court.
Concerns among clerks are piling up on the growing animosity that has been reported among judges.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissenting opinion published on Wednesday, went so far as to call it a “restless, newly constituted court,” apparently a nod to recent Trump-appointed judges.
Shortly after the leak, Judge Clarence Thomas said it was an “unthinkable breach of trust” and suggested he had lost faith in the court as an institution. And in an appearance after the leak, Judge Samuel Alito declined to comment on whether he and the other judges were still friendly enough to enjoy a meal together.