Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Supreme Court leak is a good thing

“Documents tell all, especially the ones nobody assumes will get out”
Collegian File Photo

On Monday, Politico published an initial draft of a majority Supreme Court opinion, which, if adopted by the court as written, would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Calling the 1973 decision “exceptionally weak” and “egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito’s February opinion on the court’s most recent abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, takes a strong stand against Roe, a case long-considered Supreme Court precedent.

Aside from the court’s decision itself — which will endanger the lives of tens of millions of people across the United States — it’s important to recognize how this news came out, months before the court was ready to share it.

The whistleblower is a hero, not for changing the outcome of the case, but for shaking up decades-old norms when it matters most.

I’ve heard time and again over the last few days that the story here isn’t about the leak, it’s about the decision. Though I agree news coverage and other discussions should focus on the people affected by the overturning of Roe, the leak isn’t irrelevant here. This isn’t the first big decision announced by the Court, so why did this one warrant such a risk? It speaks to the emotion around abortion and severity of the decision that someone would take the chance to share it with the press.

It’s admirable that someone saw this decision coming and knew people needed to hear about it — not in a few months, not in a year when a book deal is signed, now.

For Chief Justice John Roberts to launch an investigation into the source of the leak or for SCOTUSblog, a popular law blog written by lawyers and professors, to call it “the gravest, most unforgivable sin” is understandable, yet unnecessary. The leak isn’t life or death, but the decision is.

To those who say the recent leak upends decades of Supreme Court precedent, look to the decision itself. Look to two of the three justices confirmed under the 45th president, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom affirmed Roe v. Wade as precedent during their confirmation hearings, only to, as of this week, vote to overturn it.

Roberts said on Tuesday that the leak was intended to undermine the integrity of the court’s operations, but I think it’s a little too late for that. For an institution with two sitting members accused of sexual harassment, one of who’s wife urged the White House chief of staff to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the appearance of morality or political neutrality is long gone.

Take your anger out at those making these decisions, not at those sharing them.

Obtaining and publishing documents is a critical part of journalism. Countless reports — from the Pentagon Papers to Edward Snowden’s leak of National Security Agency documents — wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Just last week, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian published an email sent to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy by Vice Chancellor Brandi Hephner LaBanc and others on the Implementation Team, which suggested that the University’s mask mandate was, in part, lifted to entice prospective students.

“We do not want an outlier masking policy to adversely affect our competitive position,” the team wrote to the Chancellor one week before the indoor mask mandate was announced to students.

The document and others were obtained by the Collegian News Team through a public records request — no leak involved — but my point stands. Documents tell all, especially the ones nobody assumes will get out. From a college campus to the nation’s highest court, internal information vetted and published by journalists is for the public good. Those brave enough to share it are doing a public service, and those who read it are more informed as a result.

The Supreme Court’s decision will not be final until it’s published, likely in the next two months, Politico reports.

Catherine Hurley can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @cath_hurley.

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    S SquegliaMay 21, 2022 at 7:42 am

    Catherine Hurley’s May 4 article “The Supreme Court Leak is a Good Thing” attacks the upcoming decision on “Roe v Wade. That’s fine because it’s her opinion. However, her reasons are strictly political. Leaks on Court decisions and complaints about justices because of bogus accusations against them don’t justify her reasons why these Court opinions are wrong. It seems she won’t accept anything the Court says because of her politics. Hardly an unbiased article.