The Leak

Published: May 17, 2022

By Jim Lichtman
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The leak of a US Supreme Court draft decision raised a lot of concerns about the state of confidentiality and trust of the high court.

While I’m concerned about the long-term effects of overturning Roe v. Wade, a law that’s been on the books since 1973, I’m seriously concerned about the public’s trust in the Supreme Court.

At a conference in Dallas last week, Justice Thomas said, “What happened at the court is tremendously bad. I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”

He’s right.

“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”

When news of the leak had been reported, Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement, “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”

However, while I agree with Justice Thomas, I’m troubled by the fact that Thomas has remained silent about his wife’s clearly unethical text conversation with Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff.

Seven days after the presidential election was held and the country voted Joe Biden as President, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa state, Thomas wrote to Meadows:

Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

“This is a fight of good versus evil,” Meadows wrote back. “Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well-doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.”

Thomas replied: “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now… I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”

Justice Thomas’s wife just undermined her husband’s credibility. And the fact that he has not publicly addressed the issue raises doubts about his integrity in making decisions that are supposed to rise above personal, political and public opinion.

However, what shocked me most was the fact that the US Supreme Court does not have an ethical code of conduct.

According to Bloomberg Law, “Legislation requiring the U.S. Supreme Court to develop its own code of conduct advanced in the House on Wednesday night. The measure approved by the Democratic-led Judiciary Committee 22-16 over fierce Republican objection, proposes disclosure rules covering travel, gifts, and income received by the justices.”

“Fierce Republican objection”? Republicans just gave a green light to any justice or family member to inject their opinions onto the public stage, thus questioning the presumed objectivity of a justice.

Why anyone would not support a code of conduct that protects the public’s trust is beyond understanding.

“It also seeks new transparency around those filing amicus, or friend-of-the-court briefs, across the judiciary and deepens recusal rules for justices and lower court judges,” Bloomberg writes.

“‘We expect the justices of our nation’s highest court to hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct, but, in fact, their conduct too often falls below the standards that most other government officials are required to follow,” said Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.’”

However, the leak of the Supreme Court document raises an obvious question: is it ever ethical to leak information?

Yes. But only information that concerns issues directly affecting public safety and fraud.

The Pentagon Papers revealed the lies told by the Johnson administration regarding the Vietnam war.

Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, the lead scientist at Brown & Williamson, came forward about the lies the 6 tobacco heads told about the effects of smoking on millions of American smokers.

Accountant Cynthia Cooper and her team exposed nearly $4 billion in fraud committed by telecommunications giant, WorldCom.

And there have been others.

As objectionable as any decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may be, exposing its decision-making process undermines the public’s trust in a valued institution vital to democracy.

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