On Tuesday, 12 Republican House members, led by conference Vice Chairman Mike Johnson (LA-04), introduced legislation to make the act of knowingly leaking draft Supreme Court opinions a federal crime.
The bill, called the Leaker Accountability Act, could result in court employees being fined or facing up to five years in prison if they disclose “any confidential information” during their employment.
The legislation comes in response to a draft opinion leaked to Politico last month showing that the conservatives in the court are poised to reverse the landmark 1973 abortion case, Roe v. Wade, and return decisions on abortion laws to the states.
“The unauthorized leakage of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health constitutes a serious violation of legal ethics and a deliberate attack on the independence of the Supreme Court,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday. “Unfortunately, this legislation is now a necessary step to discourage future attempts to intimidate judges during their deliberations and restore the independence of the Court so that it can ensure that the American people receive equal and impartial justice under the law.”
“The Court’s institution has been damaged and we must do what we can to try to fix it,” the congressman added.
Earlier Tuesday, CNN reported that Supreme Court clerks are being asked to hand in their personal cell phone records and sign affidavits as the search for the leaker continues.
“Some clerks are apparently so alarmed over the moves, particularly the sudden requests for private cell data, that they have begun exploring whether to hire outside,” CNN reports.
It is unlikely that the bill will come up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled House before the end of the year.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (NY), along with Representatives David McKinley (WV), Mary Miller (IL), Tom Tiffany (WI), Scott Fitzgerald (WI), Burgess Owens (UT), Dan Bishop (NC), Victoria Spartz (IN), Louie Gohmert (TX), Bob Good (VA), and Markwayne Mullin (OK) joined Representative Johnson in sponsoring the legislation.