REASON GONE MAD: Behind the scenes of the Supreme Court leaks investigation
“I have ordered the Marshal of the Court to open an investigation into the source of the leak.” — Chief Justice John Roberts, A declaration about the leak a draft opinion written by Judge Samuel A. Alito which overturns Roe against Wade.
STAGE: A large, low-ceilinged, no-frills room in the basement of the Supreme Court. Several dozen plastic folding chairs are arranged in a large circle on the smooth cement floor. A single bare bulb hangs in the middle, emitting a sickly yellow light and buzzing disconcertingly. The sound of running water echoes, like a metronome, from a distant corner. The room is cold and grim. Suddenly, a metal door opens in the room.
COURT MARSHAL (enter the basement room): All right, let’s move on, I want everyone to be seated now!
(She steps aside as people enter the room. Among them are the nine Supreme Court justices in their black robes, their paralegals, various staff members, the ghost of Justice Antonin Scalia and 15 students from the Mrs. Landry’s fifth grade. class at Thompson Elementary School, near Memphis, who had walked around the court. MARSHAL closes the door and walks slowly, almost menacingly around the outside of the circle. She wears a black robe identical to that of the judges but with gold military-style epaulettes on the shoulders and tightened at the waist by a pistol belt, from which hangs a holster with a pistol, several pairs of handcuffs, additional ammunition and a small copy of Supreme Court Rules. She also carries a shield that looks like the one used by Captain America.
MARSHAL (clears his throat): Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Colonel Gail A. Curleyand I am the Marshal of the Supreme Court of the United States. (She stops and looks around the room.) This is a position I have had the honor to hold since June 21, 2021. My job is to announce the arrival of the judges for oral arguments with the familiar “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez”, to provide security judges, their staff and visitors, as well as manage the daily disbursement of salaries and other funds to ensure the smooth running of the Court. (She pauses again and shifts her gaze from face to face, eyes narrowed.)
CURLY (after): If this description looks like something we could have looked on Wikipedia moments after learning, to his surprise, that there is, in fact, a person called “Marshal of the Court” who is in charge of the aforementioned responsibilities, don’t worry. I’m used to it. I guess I have my moment. (She shrugs.)
Special effects : Sound of a cell phone ringing playing “I’d Do Anything For Love” by Meat Loaf. It’s from one of the judges.
JUDGE CLARENCE THOMAS (at Curley): Can I? (CURLEY nods with a flabbergasted eye roll.) Hello Gini. Yes, I knew it was you because of the ringtone. Uh huh. Yes, of course I heard the news, and no, I didn’t divulge it. It would be outrageously unethical. Well I have to go. See you tonight at the BBQ with the Oath Keepers and the veterans of the January 6 uprising? Awesome. (He hangs up.) Sorry.
Curley: Chief Justice, you have the floor.
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Thank you. As I said in my statement, this leak is “a singular and flagrant violation” that undermines the integrity and stellar reputation of this tribunal. As you know, we had privately agreed that June 30 would be the day we announced the elimination of a constitutional right to abortion – and possibly all constitutional privacy rights – which will endanger the health of millions of mostly poor women and will actually compromise the integrity of the court. We chose this date so that we can all make the necessary plans to fly to a safe, undisclosed location in the hours leading up to its release. Now that sane plan is ruined.
JUSTICE SONYA SOTOMAYOR (sniffing the air and frowning his face): Phew, seriously, what is that stench?
Curley: Chief Justice, it is curious that you used the word “blatant” to describe the leak. It’s the same word Judge Alito used to describe his feelings about Roe. Justice Alito, did you leak your draft?
JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: Of course not. I have zealously guarded this brilliant, perfect opinion that flips Roe against Wade from the time I finished it on February 10. And for clarity, this is February 10, 1975, during my senior year at Yale Law School.
(Several of Ms. Landry’s fifth-grade students stop fidgeting, look up, and gasp audibly. Judge Antonin Scalia’s ghost rolls his eyes.)
CURLY: You wrote the review in 1975?
ALITO: Sure! deer been “Enormously wrong from the start.” And I said it from the moment it was said in 1973. I mean, I didn’t say it publicly. And certainly not during my confirmation hearings. (He looks at JUSTICES NEIL GORSUCH, AMY CONEY BARRETT and BRETT KAVANAUGH.) I mean I’m not madfriendship? (ALITO, GORSUCH AND KAVANAUGH laugh, jump to the center of the circle, high-five and thump each other’s chests.)
KAVANAUGH (pulls out a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon from under her dress): This one is for you, Raclette! (He draws the beer and smashes the empty can on his forehead.)
SOTOMAYOR (practically gagging): My god, that stench – I think it might be the smell of politicization – it’s just awful. I’m not sure we can survive it. Can we get some fresh air here?
MRS. EDITH LANDRY (at Curley): I’m really sorry, but I don’t think my fifth graders should see this. Or be here at all. Can we leave?
Curley: No, stay put. (She looks at ALITO, GORSUCH AND KAVANAUGH.) Gentlemen, let me remind you that according to Wikipedia, “The marshal also has the power to make arrests in the execution [her] functions.” (She places her hand without holding her Captain America-like shield over her gun in its holster.) And I’m also a colonel in the US Army, I remind you.
KAVANAUGH (sarcastically): Oh, well, look at you. (He turns to SOTOMAYOR and holds out his hand.) Pull my finger. Go ahead, don’t worry, nothing will happen. Let’s go!
CURLY (to the assembled clerks): OK, which of you did it leak? Was it someone working for a conservative judiciary, hoping to lock down Alito’s extreme position, or one of you liberals trying to rally your supporters before the midterms?
Special effects : The sound of “I’d do anything for love” plays on THOMAS’ cell phone again.
CURLY (grab THOMAS’ phone): Give me that! (She holds the phone to her ear) Now look. (She listens for a moment.) OK very good. I will tell him. (She ends the call.) She wants to know why you disabled texting on her phone. (To the clerks.) So who leaked it? ‘Disgust! Don’t make me disburse Supreme Court funds forcefully in your direction!
LEGAL CLERK: Why would any of us risk a promising career in law by disclosing something a little early? It does not mean anything.
Curley: Alright, that’s a good point.
JIMMY BOBSON, FIFTH STUDENT: It smells really bad in here. (He starts crying.)
THE GHOST OF JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: It was me! I leaked it! I waited years for Roe to be knocked down and helped lay the groundwork! And I want credit!
THE GHOST OF JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG (suddenly appearing): Oh, no, you didn’t, Nino. Do not be dumb. You have been with me at the Opera. And you’re wrong about Roe versus Wade, just like you always have been.
SOTOMAYOR (jumps up and heads for the door, hand on his nose): I can’t stand this smell! Stop me if you want but I’m leaving! (She runs out of the room.)
ROBERTS: It’s not going well. Oh no. Not good at all. Too bad for a court that comes call the balls and hit.
JUDGE STEPHEN BREYER (look straight into the camera): I am so glad I got out of here. Good luck, America!
Before moving to the Berkshires, Bill Shein served briefly as a little-known Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.