Supreme Court probe into leaks reveals gray area of ​​press protections

“Standards of confidentiality in court, they’re neither soft nor subtle,” said Allison Orr Larsen, a professor at William and Mary Law School who worked for Judge David H. Souter. “They are strongly and repeatedly emphasized.”

As direct and terrifying as these warnings may be, they are informal. The same goes for the rules that apply to the judges themselves, who have resisted being bound by written procedures on most matters concerning their work.

“They don’t even have written ethics rules for judges,” said Paul M. Smith, a law professor at Georgetown University who worked for Judge Lewis F. Powell Jr. The leak, a he says, and the focus on the lack of those standards after recent revelations about the political activities of Virginia Thomas, the wife of Judge Clarence Thomas, could put more pressure on the court to accept new restrictions on its operation.

Other legal scholars, including some from the conservative Heritage Foundation, pointed to a number of laws that could be used to prosecute the funder and spur the type of wide-ranging investigation that could involve the press, court personnel and even individual judges. A law that has been used against leakers, according to John Malcolm, a legal expert with the Heritage Foundation, deals broadly with theft, embezzlement and conversion of government-owned “things of value”.

None are a slam dunk. But First Amendment experts said they wouldn’t be surprised if any of those laws were tested in this case.

RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor at the University of Utah’s SJ Quinney College of Law who served as a law clerk for Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, said that when she and a group of former law clerks sent each other text messages heard about the Politico article, their immediate reaction was that it had to be a hoax. A leak of this magnitude, they all understood, is strictly prohibited.

“What it means to be strictly banned is about to be tested,” Ms Andersen Jones added.

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