Lecturers Discuss Criminal Charges for the SCOTUS Leaker

Betraying the Bench: Could the SCOTUS Leaker Face Criminal Charges?

The possibility that a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk may have leaked a draft opinion to a Politico reporter has shined a rare spotlight on the consequences facing law clerks who betray judicial trust. Chief Justice John Roberts, who characterized the leak as “appalling,” ordered the court’s marshal to launch an investigation.

No doubt leaking internal court documents and other sensitive information—whether at the Supreme Court or in a lower court—threatens to end a promising legal career before it has launched, and for good reasons. But does such a bold breach also implicate the criminal law?

Most observers, including some prominent law professors and other members of the legal commentariat sharing their perspectives in outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, Wired, USA Today, and Politifact , have opined that it likely does not.


The authors would like to thank Joshua Sullivan and Chloe Zagrodzky, both law students at the University of Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis Corporate Lab, for their research assistance on this article.

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