The damage the Trump-packed Supreme Court majority has done to itself with the Dobbs v. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the leak of that decision from Justice Samuel Alito a month before it was handed down, and the subsequent “investigation” of that leak just keep getting deeper. It just got even worse.
CNN reports that the court has “longstanding financial ties” with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who Chief Justice John Roberts tapped to endorse the leak investigation that found no leaker and let the justices and their spouses off the hook. Chertoff has a contract with the court for security consultations that has “reached at least $1 million.”
Because Supreme Court contracts are as exempt from public scrutiny as everything else connected with the justices, the exact amount of money Chertoff has been receiving from the court for security services can’t be discovered. According to court sources to CNN, however, the court has been paying “The Chertoff Group for security assessments, some broadly covering justices’ safety and some specifically related to Covid-19 protocols at the court itself,” for a number of years.
RELATED STORY: Supreme Court reports it cannot find Dobbs leaker because their security was a mess to begin with
Chertoff has a long association with Roberts stretching back to their overlapping years at Harvard Law School, then as clerks at both the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court. Chertoff eventually served with Alito on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before leaving the gate bench to serve as the first secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. Chertoff and Roberts both served in the first Bush presidency (H.W.) and Chertoff served with Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch in W’s administration. It’s all been very cozy among the crew for a very long time.
In a preface to the report on the leak investigation conducted by Marshal of the Court Gail A. Curley, Chertoff wrote that his review “assessed that the Marshal and her experienced investigators understood a thorough investigation within their legal authorities,” and that they had “provided a detailed account of their investigative process and all documents associated with the investigation.”
What we know from that leak is that the staff of the court was subject to invasive investigation, turning over in some cases even their private phones and laptops. They were all required to sign affidavits, and told that their jobs were only the line “if they refused to answer or failed to answer fully and truthfully.”
When numerous court watchers pointed out that it appeared from the way the report was written that the justices themselves were excluded from official interviews, Marshal Curley issued a follow-up statement saying she didn’t believe it was necessary to ask them to sign affidavits. “The Justices actively cooperated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine,” she wrote. “I followed up on all credible leads, none of which implicated the Justices or their spouses.”
But of course the justices were off the hook, their lifetime tenures unquestioned. That includes Alito, who we know from previous reporting has allegedly leaked other abortion-related decisions and has very friendly personal relationships with people representing right-wing groups with cases in front of the court. That’s despite the fact that another justice, Clarence Thomas, shares his home and his life with extremist insurrectionist Ginni Thomas.
One group, Take Back the Court, thinks that stinks and has asked the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to investigate. “Unfortunately, the Court has proven time and again that it is incapable of policing itself,” Sarah Lipton-Lubet states in the letter. “As such, it falls to Congress to step up to its role as a coequal branch and provide the oversight that is so sorely lacking.”
“Supreme Court employees would be vulnerable to a wide range of sanctions, including termination of employment and damage to future career prospects, if they are found to have misled the Marshal’s investigation. By contrast, the justices enjoy lifetime appointments and are virtually impossible to remove from office,” Lipton-Lubet wrote.
Now we know that the court majority turned to one of its well-paid and long-time friends to rubber-stamp the findings of this investigation that completely exonerated the justices themselves without actually investigating them. “It feels like every day being a new story about the Roberts Court’s nonexistent relationship with transparency and ethics” Lipton-Lubet said in response to the Chertoff revelations.
“Chertoff claims that he couldn’t find ‘any additional useful investigative measures’ to identify the Dobbs leader,” she continued. “We identified more than a dozen questions worth asking—but then again, we don’t have secret contracts with the Court. I guess Chertoff had a least a million reasons not to ask any of those questions.”
In a statement to Daily Kos, Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said: “While it’s not surprising only those on the Supreme Court’s payroll are willing to vouch for this botched investigation, the Court continues to amaze in its willingness to flout basic standards of transparency and honesty.
“At this point, it looks like the goal of this so-called investigation was to protect the justices, who were paying everyone involved, and not get to the bottom of the leak,” Fallon continued.
But hey, Kavanaugh says it’s just one big happy family there on the court. “There are great relations among all nine justices both personally and professionally. We only get tough cases, and we disagree on some of those. I think that’s more nuanced than it is sometimes portrayed,” he said at a Notre Dame Law school event.
Never mind the festering rot at the core of the conservative majority.