Supreme Court leak bill: Which media outlets are covering it?

Politics

The Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, Saturday, May 14, 2022, ahead of expected abortion rights rallies later in the day. (Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(NewsNation) — A dozen GOP lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would make leaking “confidential information” out of the Supreme Court a federal crime.

The “Leaker Accountability Act” comes in direct response to last month’s bombshell Politico report showing a leaked SCOTUS draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade abortion rights protections at the federal level.

But there’s a chance you haven’t heard about this bill. That’s because eighty-two percent of news outlets that reported on this issue lean right, according to NewsNation’s partner Ground News, which monitors coverage based on media bias. Only a few “center” outlets and even fewer left-leaning media outlets have reported on the proposed law, according to Ground News’ Blindspot report.

Under the new bill, which was led by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., and co-sponsored by 11 other GOP lawmakers, any officer or employee of the Supreme Court who knowingly shares confidential information related to their work could face up to five years in prison and a fine.

“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,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday.

The partisan media divide reflects the two different responses that were common in the days following the report — politicians on the right condemned the leak and called for an investigation while those on the left were more concerned with the substance of the draft opinion and what it meant for abortion rights.

“Conservatives believe that this was a liberal leak and that this liberal leak was designed to flip the votes in Dobbs,” said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston.

Under current law, it’s unclear whether the person behind the Supreme Court leak, if caught, could be held criminally liable. Blackman says it may depend on who’s ultimately responsible.

“If this was someone inside the building who had authorization to access the opinion, I am not confident that a criminal conviction could be had. I think it’s possible, but I’m skeptical,” Blackman said. “If this was some foreign national who hacked a classified Supreme Court system, then yeah, there was a crime.”

If passed, the bill introduced Tuesday would draw a bright line outlining the criminal liability for such a leak, although it’s unlikely to advance in a Democrat-controlled House before the end of the year. Even if the legislation did pass, it would not apply retroactively to the person behind the most recent disclosure.

And while the legislation codifies the penalty for any future SCOTUS leaks, Blackman says the language in the proposed statute, as it’s currently written, is too broad.

“What happens if someone clerks on the Supreme Court and 15 years later they tell some anecdote from inside the court to a friend that is kind of funny but maybe includes a little confidential information — is that now a felony?” Blackman said.

Chief Justice John Roberts has opened an investigation and tasked Supreme Court Marshall Col. Gail Curley with getting to the bottom of the leak.

This story is part of NewsNation’s new “Blindspot” initiative in partnership with Ground News to provide readers with contextual, unbiased news they may not find covered by every media outlet.

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