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After the leak: AP analysis of Chief Justice John Roberts

FILE - Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts departs at the end of the day on Capitol Hill, Jan. 29, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. More than two years later Roberts is heading a Supreme Court under intense scrutiny, and has already ordered an investigation into the unprecedented leak of a draft of a major abortion opinion. What comes next could further test Roberts’ leadership of the court. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky, File)

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Reporter Jessica Gresko used her deep knowledge of the Supreme Court beat to probe a question unasked amid the maelstrom that followed the court’s leaked draft decision on abortion: What does it say about the reign of Chief Justice John Roberts?

Even as Gresko was immersed in minute-by-minute coverage after the leak, and with the added challenge of having her Supreme Court colleague out of the country, she managed to find a thoughtful angle unmined in the media’s furious scramble to own a piece of the story.

Courts are named for their chief justices and in his tenure Roberts has sought to preserve what he sees as the integrity of the institution. Greskio talked to court insiders,former clerks and others who know Roberts and how he operates. Using her sources and past court opinions,she made the case that while this might still be nominally Roberts’ court,he is no longer its moral, or even intellectual center.

The all-formats package was among AP’s most-downloaded and engaged for the week — it appeared online and on front pages across the country. Even outlets that did not use the AP story ran with Gresko’s angle, producing their own stories in the days that followed.

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Chief Justice John Roberts walks back inside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Oct. 1, 2020, after the investiture and public appearance of Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. – AP Photo / Alex Brandon
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