Ever since a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting it’s poised to overturn federal abortion rights leaked earlier this month, Republicans have been hysterical over the likely ruling — the world’s worst-kept secret — being revealed to the public.
Now, they’re out for blood.
In reality, former President Donald Trump tipped the balance of the court by nominating three justices who’ve signaled their opposition to abortion rights. This was after he literally said he’d nominate justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed the right to an abortion. The revelation that this court is now expected to do just that is devastating but not surprising.
The leak, however, did tarnish the court’s public reputation, which it relies upon for legitimacy. And conservatives hate that we don’t respect their band of judicial mercenaries. Releasing the draft exposed the majority’s shoddy, right-wing arguments before they could be refined into more carefully written legalese, feeding anger toward a conservative-leaning court that Americans overwhelmingly believe is too political.
Now, furious over the collapse of the court’s impartiality charade, 12 Republican members of the House introduced a bill Tuesday called the Leaker Accountability Act that would punish any officer or employee of the Supreme Court who knowingly publishes, divulges or discloses information the bill defines as “confidential.” The crime would carry a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Draft opinions aren’t classified, but the bill, led by Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, effectively creates a new category of information people could be jailed for sharing. Here are some other things the bill seeks to punish people for sharing:
- Internal notes on cases heard by the Supreme Court.
- Any communication between a justice of the Supreme Court and an employee or officer of the court.
- Communication between officers and employees of the Supreme Court on a matter pending before the court.
- A draft opinion or a final opinion prior to the date on which the opinion is released to the public.
- Personal information of a justice of the Supreme Court that is not otherwise legally available to the public.
- Any other information designated to be confidential by the chief justice.
If the ban on sharing personal information about justices seems unrelated to the Supreme Court leak itself, that’s because it’s more likely a nod to conservative kvetching over the protests outside some justices’ homes in response to the leaked opinion.
As you can see, this is a rather long list of restrictions that doesn’t even seem enforceable given the way the bill is written. Under this law, Chief Justice John Roberts could classify his lunch menu, and anyone who shared that he ate lobster bisque that day could potentially face jail time.
To say the least, it’s a law with a lot of holes. It also has essentially no chance of passing in a Democrat-controlled House. This bill is solely about messaging, and the message here is that the GOP will hunt down anyone who throws a wrench into their right-wing plans.
In other words: Snitches get stitches.