Washington Examiner

Senate bill would imprison Supreme Court leakers and impose $10K fine

By Kaelan Deese, Supreme Court Reporter

EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) unveiled new legislation Thursday that would hold future Supreme Court leakers accountable with a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison for releasing information about pending decisions in response to last month's unprecedented leaked draft opinion that signaled the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

In an exclusive interview, Cassidy told the Washington Examiner that if the legislation, titled the Stop Supreme Court Leakers Act of 2022, becomes law, it would not be able to imprison or fine anyone responsible for leaking the draft opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, though it could be used to confiscate any possible profits received by the person or people who leaked the draft.

"There is a portion in there which seizes profit stemming from the crime. So the person who wants to do a book deal where they're going to profit from what they've done, that would be affected," Cassidy said, also noting that any media contributions or paid speaking engagements would fall into the same category.

"Whoever leaked this draft opinion and any future leakers must face the consequences of the damage they cause," Cassidy added.

Cassidy cited the attempted assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, as one reason for the Senate to act. The suspect, 26-year-old Nicholas Roske, admitted he was inspired by the leaked draft opinion that signaled the high court was poised to undo nearly 50 years of abortion access precedent established under Roe, according to a criminal affidavit.

"The attempted assassination of a sitting United States Supreme Court justice was a direct result of the dangerous and unprecedented leak. While the mainstream media may ignore this horrific story targeting a conservative justice, the American people want the leaker to be held accountable," Cassidy said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) backed the legislation, asserting that "you shouldn’t receive a badge of honor or financial reward" for leaking confidential high court documents and that "you should face serious penalties" instead. The bill is also supported by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), who argued the leak was "done to intimidate justices and influence the outcome of cases."

Although the Senate was united to pass a recent measure to extend security over to the families of Supreme Court justices, Cassidy's latest bill has yet to receive the support of any lawmakers across the aisle in the Democratic-led Senate.

"I think the radical left base has intimidated people from doing that which is right regarding addressing this leak," Cassidy said. "It's easy to imagine a decision under a different court that would have been leaked, triggering a backlash from the Right. Well, the Left would have been, 'Oh my gosh, we got to prevent it.'"

Cassidy's proposal comes one day after former President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that authorities should press Politico reporters Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, the authors of the original article about the leak, to reveal their sources.

"The U.S. Supreme Court MUST find, reveal, and punish the 'Leaker.' Very easy to do — Go to the reporter who received the leak," Trump wrote on Truth Social, his social media platform.

In response to whether he believes one or more individuals will be named responsible for the leak, Cassidy said he has heard "two schools of thought." One is that it's difficult to determine the leaker — another "is that they would know, but they don't want to distract in advance of the release of the opinion. And both are plausible," Cassidy said.

Since the leaked opinion on May 2, the Justice Department has ordered U.S. marshals to provide "around-the-clock security" for Supreme Court justices' homes after a Department of Homeland Security memo dated May 13 warned of an "increase" in political violence surrounding the imminent release of the Dobbs opinion.

Meanwhile, the marshal of the Supreme Court was tasked by Chief Justice John Roberts in May to investigate the origins of the draft leak, which have culminated with efforts to have court clerks sign legal affidavits and provide cellphone records in an attempt to uncover the source of the leak.

The high court will again release opinions Thursday and Friday at 10 a.m. EST, offering two more opportunities for a decision on Dobbs, though there are no clear indicators as to which cases the justices will hand down.

Justices have designated Monday as an "order list issuance" day but have not indicated whether more opinions will come next week.