Supreme Court leaked landmark case years before Roe’s overturning, former abortion activist claims in new report

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Supreme Court leaked landmark case years before Roe's overturning, former abortion activist claims in new report
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Following the monumental leak of the draft notice to overturn Roe v. Wade in May, a former anti-abortion leader claims he was told the outcome of a 2014 case weeks before it was publicly announced, according to a report in The New York Times on Saturday.

Reverend Rob Schenck, who ran an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he was told in advance of Burwell’s decision against Hobby Lobby, a landmark case involving contraception and religious rights, according to a letter he wrote to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Schenck used his knowledge of the verdict to prepare public relations materials, according to the report, and to brief the president of evangelical craft store Christain Hobby Lobby, the winning party in the case. Schenck said the decision was also shared with a handful of attorneys, according to the report.

The Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision was a victory for conservatives, as was the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark decision that established the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. in 1973.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court ruled that it was a violation of religious freedom for family businesses to be required to pay for insurance covering contraception.

Judge Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion in both cases.

A majority opinion plan to overthrow Roe was leaked in May and sent shockwaves across the country, galvanizing activists on both sides of the debate. It also threw a veil over the country’s highest court, which immediately launched an investigation to find the source of the leak.

The unprecedented leak of Alito’s draft notice blew a hole in the cloak of secrecy that normally shrouds the court’s internal affairs. It drew scrutiny from the court’s critics, many of whom were already concerned about the politicization of the country’s most powerful law-making body, where judges are appointed for life.

But according to Schenck, this is not the first time that a ruling has been leaked.

Schenck had “worked for years” to gain access to court by trading favors and using his faith, he told The Times. And in 2014, two of Schenck’s “star donors,” Donald and Gayle Wright, ate a meal with Justice Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann.

The next day, the Times reported, one of the Wrights called Schenck and told him that Alito had written the majority opinion and that the case would be decided in favor of Hobby Lobby. Less than a month later, that exact decision was announced to the public.

In a statement obtained by NBC News, Alito said the allegation that the Wrights were told the outcome of the case, or the majority opinion, is “completely false.”

“My wife and I got to know the Wrights a few years ago because of their strong support for the Supreme Court Historical Society, and since then we’ve had an informal, purely social relationship,” Alito said in the statement. . “I never detected any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything I did in an official or private capacity, and I would have strongly objected if they had. fact. I am not aware of any projects they have undertaken for ‘Faith and Action’, ‘Faith and Freedom’, or any similar group, and I would be shocked and offended if these allegations are true.”

Schenck’s views on abortion have changed in recent years, according to the report, and he is working to establish himself as a more progressive evangelical figure. He said he regretted his actions and his knowledge of the case, which is why he decided to speak out.

“What we did,” he told The Times, “was wrong.”

Supreme Court officials and Chief Justice John Roberts did not immediately comment.

– CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.

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