"Business as usual" appears to be a thing of the past where the U.S. Supreme Court is concerned. Following the infamous leak of the court's draft opinion on the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade, a new analysis is highlighting how the controversial document has caused an implosion within the court.
NPR's Nina Totenberg offered an in-depth look at life "behind the scenes" of the Supreme Court. "The atmosphere behind the scenes is so ugly that, as one source put it, 'the place sounds like it's imploding.' She went on to share a public example of the internal problems within the court, citing Justice Clarence Thomas remarks from a speech made a few weeks ago. At the time, Thomas suggested that he "no longer trusts his colleagues."
"When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I'm in, it changes the institution fundamentally," he told a conservative group. "You begin to look over your shoulder. It's like kind of an infidelity that you can explain it but you can't undo it."
More specifically, he appeared to imply that he didn't trust Chief Justice John Roberts. "The court that was together 11 year(s) was a fabulous court. It was one you look forward to being a part of," he said.
Offering more insight into the time period Thomas spoke of, Totenberg wrote, "Those 11 years were when the chief justice was William Rehnquist, who died in 2005 and was succeeded by Roberts, who, ironically, had been one of Rehnquist's clerks many years earlier."
Totenberg went on to highlight the "much bigger" and more problematic leak. "There is a much bigger and, in fact, unprecedented leak to deal with — an actual draft opinion reversing a half-century of abortion precedents," she wrote. "The chief justice called the leak 'a betrayal' and ordered the Supreme Court marshal to conduct an internal investigation. But the investigation may only be adding to problems at the court."
Another problem centers around the SCOTUS marshal in place to oversee the investigative probe. Neither he nor SCOTUS law enforcement has the investigative experience needed to conduct a proper investigation. Those that are experienced have described these types of "leak inquiries" as "nightmares."
Glenn Fine — who previously served as the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Department of Defense for both Democratic and Republican White House administrations has conducted similar investigations — has also weighed in on the latest probe.
He began by saying, "we would be told that ... only a few people had access to the material that had been leaked. Only a few individuals were at the key meeting or worked on the document."
But also said, "'invariably when we probed the universe of people who had access,' the number expanded 'exponentially.'"
In wake of the investigation, law clerks are also seeking legal advice as they determine whether or not they need representation. According to Totenberg, "all of this presents its own ethical problems, since these law firms do have cases in front of the Supreme Court."
She added, "As for the court itself, it is not in a good place."