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Is Unauthorized Dissemination of a Draft Supreme Court Opinion a Federal Crime?

CRS Legal Sidebar – Is Unauthorized Dissemination of a Draft Supreme Court Opinion a Federal Crime? May 10, 2022 – “…Although federal law does prohibit the dissemination of certain kinds of government information—such as “classified” information related to national security—there does not appear to be a federal criminal statute expressly prohibiting unauthorized sharing of Supreme Court documents like draft opinions. Several laws that have been publicly referenced in connection with disclosure of non-public Supreme Court information could apply to particular disclosures depending on the underlying facts, which remain unclear in this instance, but there would be legal hurdles associated with seeking to use any of the referenced laws to prosecute the person or persons who shared the draft opinion in Dobbs. The provenance of the disclosure is unknown, so the laws addressed in this Legal Sidebar may or may not apply depending on the facts.Further developments in the Supreme Court marshal’s investigation could also make additional laws relevant (for instance, 18 U.S.C.§1001, which prohibits knowingly and willfully making a materially false statement “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the . . . judicial branch of the Government of the United States,” among other things). As relevant to the disclosure itself, this Legal Sidebar will briefly describe three federal criminal provisions that have been cited by commentators in the context of apparently unauthorized Supreme Court information dissemination and identify some of the potential issues that application of each of those laws could raise…”

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