A group of Republican lawmakers has introduced legislation that would make it a federal crime to knowingly reveal confidential information obtained while serving as a Supreme Court officer or employee — violators would face a fine, or up to five years in prison, or both.
“Whoever, while serving as an officer or employee of the Supreme Court, violates this section by knowingly publishing, divulging, disclosing, or making known in any manner or to any extent not authorized by law any confidential information coming to that officer or employee in the course of the employment or official duties of that officer or employee shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years or fined under this title, or both,” the text states.
This would pertain to “internal notes on cases heard by the Supreme Court, any communication between a Justice of the Supreme Court and an employee or officer of the Supreme Court or communication between officers and employees of the Supreme Court on a matter pending before the Supreme Court, a draft opinion, a final opinion prior to the date on which such opinion is released to the public, personal information of a Justice of the Supreme Court that is not otherwise legally available to the public, and any other information designated to be confidential by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court prior to the date on which a violation” takes place.
The proposal comes after the leak of a Supreme Court draft majority opinion revealed that the high court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a move that would enable states to ban abortions.
The court’s official decision in the case will come later this year — while pro-life advocates are pleased by the possibility that the court may strike down Roe, pro-choice proponents are bemoaning the prospect.
“The unauthorized leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health constitutes a grave breach of judicial ethics and a deliberate attack on the independence of the Supreme Court,” GOP Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana said, according to a press release. “This legislation is now, unfortunately, a necessary step to discourage future such attempts to intimidate justices during their deliberative process and restore independence to the Court so that it can ensure the American people are afforded equal and impartial justice under the law. The institution of the Court has been damaged and we must do what we can to try to repair it.”
The other lawmakers backing the proposal include Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York, David McKinley of West Virginia, Mary Miller of Illinois, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin, Burgess Owens of Utah, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Victoria Spartz of Indiana, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Bob Good of Virginia.