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Was Politico’s Supreme Court Leaker an Inside Man?

John Roberts
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
May 9, 2022

Everyone is still talking about Politico’s earth-shaking scoop that the Supreme Court may be on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade and any constitutional right to an abortion. Just how did Politico get its hands on Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion? A popular D.C. parlor game at the moment is guessing the identity of the leaker. The most popular theories point to one of the 37 law clerks currently serving the nine justices. But I’ve heard the reasoning—everything from the presence of staple holes indicating printouts to the evolving cultural attitudes of Millennials—and I’m not convinced. So let me just offer four reasons the “leak” might have come from outside the building.

1. This would be a career-ender for a law clerk. And potentially criminal theft for anyone else working at SCOTUS not authorized to access a draft opinion. Remember that law clerks aren’t typical 30-somethings. These are extraordinarily ambitious, mostly Ivy League-educated high-achievers. They know the rules backwards and forwards; they’ve been trained to maintain confidentiality; and perhaps most importantly, they’re on the cusp of an elite career in which they can use their legal studies to advance their political and social views.