The Supreme Court issued an investigative report on Thursday, announcing that it has yet to determine who leaked a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade to the media last year.
In a statement, the court said that the investigative team “has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.”
The leak – the worst breach of confidentiality in the court’s history – became public on May 2 when Politico published a draft opinion reversing the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The disclosure rocked the court and left some justices with a sense of paranoia inside the confines of the marble-lined hallways. Shortly thereafter, on May 3, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement directing the marshal of the court, Gail Curley, to investigate the leak.
Curley oversees about 260 employees, including the court’s police department which has the power to arrest people on the grounds.
In the report Thursday, Curley concluded that “whether or not any individual is ever identified,” the court should implement better policies concerning sensitive information.
“In time, continued investigation and analysis may produce additional leads that could identify the source of the disclosure,” Curley states. “Whether or not any individual is ever identified as the source of the disclosure, the Court should take action to create and implement better policies to govern the handling of Court-sensitive information and determine the best IT systems for security and collaboration.”
During an appearance in Atlanta later in May, Roberts called the leak “absolutely appalling.” Justice Elena Kagan later called it an “obvious, blatant violation of the court’s rules,” and Justice Clarence Thomas equated it to an “infidelity.”
On June 24, the opinion, which closely tracked the draft, was officially released – changing the landscape of women’s reproductive health nationwide. The decision opened the door to states to ban abortion outright with limited exceptions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of December 2022, abortion is unavailable in 14 states and courts have temporarily blocked enforcement of bans in eight others. Even in states where abortion is available, however, clinics have been overwhelmed with an influx of patients from other states.
The opinion was penned by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by Justices Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh.
CNN’s Joan Biskupic reported exclusively that Curley’s team had asked law clerks who serve the justices for a one-year terms to turn over cell phone data and to sign affidavits related to possible disclosure of the leak and had requested electronic devices from some permanent employees who work with the justices.
But by mid-summer, as is the normal practice, most of the clerks that had served during the term had gone on to new jobs, having completed their clerkships.
The opinion triggered protests across the country and a man was picked up near Kavanaugh’s home and later charged with attempted murder. Critics charged that the institution had been irretrievably tainted with politics.
The court has previously remained silent about the investigation, choosing not to release any official updates.
This story has been updated with additional details.