Strauss Center News

Updates from the Strauss Center and our affiliated distinguished scholars and fellows


Professor Vladeck Discusses the Recent Supreme Court Leak

Sep 3, 2020 |

In a recent Bloomberg podcastProfessor Stephen Vladeck, A. Dalton Cross Professor in Law at the University of Texas School of Law and Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar, discussed the recent extraordinary Supreme Court leaks which provide insight into the inner workings of the court throughout the past term. He began by noting that while Supreme Court leaks happen often, it was the sheer volume of this leak that was so notable, as it included information on nearly every case from this Supreme Court term. He said he found it to be more likely to been done by a justice than a Supreme Court staffer or law clerk as the latter stand to lose far more from the discovery of their involvement in a leak than the justices themselves. Vladeck also noted that the intent of the leak seemed to be two-fold: first, to embarrass Chief Justice Roberts who has been wielding a stronger institutional role as of recent, and second, to shine light on why things did not go as expected, particularly for conservatives. Another major surprise, Vladeck noted, was Chief Justice Roberts decision not to serve as the fifth vote to overturn recent gun legislation. This is of particular interest as it illustrates the Chief Justice’s transition to a role that is more concerned with institutional sensibilities than outright political preferences. 

Vladeck continued to highlight this transition in his discussion of two recent cases on the subpoenas of President Trump’s financial records. Both cases resulted in a 7-2 vote, which illustrates that the Court, rather than dividing along progressive and conservative lines alone, has sought to write in a unified voice as much as possible. Vladeck believes this is indicative of Chief Justice Roberts aspiration to keep the court from slipping into naked politicization. This message, Vladeck argues, may be more important now than ever: that certain principles always matter, and that certain institutional values must be upheld. Listen to the full conversation here.