A Supreme Court lawyer said there was no evidence Justice Samuel Alito violated ethical standards, a letter said Monday in response to questions from congressional Democrats about allegations that Alito disclosed the outcome of the 2014 decision before it was made public.
“There is no indication that Justice Alito’s conduct violated ethical standards,” wrote Ethan Torrey, a legal adviser to the Supreme Court. “The relevant provisions strike a balance between preventing gifts that could undermine public confidence in the judiciary and allowing judges to maintain normal personal friendships.”
Senior Democrats in Congress, who had asked Chief Justice John Roberts for information about the justices’ knowledge of a possible influence campaign targeting the court, said Tuesday they were not satisfied with Torrey’s response.
Torrey denied the accusations by the evangelical minister, the Rev. Rob Schenck, which were published in The New York Times earlier this month. The story claimed that the Supreme Court’s earlier reversal in a landmark religious freedom case occurred years before the draft Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade was leaked last term.
“Justice Alito has said that neither he nor Mrs. Alito,” Gail Wright told his house guest years ago, “about the Hobby Lobby decision or the authorship of the court’s opinion,” Tory wrote.
Torrey also said Alito and his wife met Wright and her now-deceased husband because of their support for the Supreme Court Historical Society, and “they had a casual and purely social relationship.”
“The judge never found any effort by Wright to obtain confidential information or to influence anything he did in his official or private capacity,” Torrey wrote.
Wright previously denied Schenck’s claims in an interview with CNN.
The letter was in response to questions Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Henry Johnson put to Torrey and Roberts for answers last week after the Times story broke.
The congressmen had asked Roberts to “assist in our investigation of the allegations” and warned that the new allegations show that “the organizers of this judicial lobbying campaign may have used their access to certain judges to provide confidential information about pending cases, which only deepens our concerns. about the lack of adequate ethical and legal protective barriers in court.
On Tuesday, Whitehouse and Johnson said Torrey’s response “repeated Justice Alito’s denials but did not answer any of our questions.”
Democrats, who lead subcommittees in the Senate and House, respectively, and oversee the federal judiciary, accused the court of ethical procedures and a lack of transparency.
“These multiple failures of due process are peculiar, coming from the nation’s highest court,” they said. “Procedure is the bone structure of justice.”
This story has been updated with additional information.