ProPublica won the prestigious public service Pulitzer Prize for what the judges described as “groundbreaking and ambitious reporting that pierced the thick wall of secrecy surrounding the Supreme Court to reveal how a small group of politically influential billionaires wooed justices with lavish gifts and travel, pushing the Court to adopt its first code of conduct.” The prize is given to the staff of a news organization that performed “meritorious public service.” It is the seventh Pulitzer Prize for ProPublica.

The Pulitzer Board also recognized a collaboration between The Texas Tribune, ProPublica and FRONTLINE as a finalist in the explanatory reporting category. The investigation provided a detailed analysis of the deeply flawed law enforcement response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The designation is ProPublica’s 17th Pulitzer finalist in 16 years.

ProPublica’s “Friends of the Court” series uncovered the biggest ethics scandal to hit the Supreme Court in the modern era. Reporters Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Alex Mierjeski, Brett Murphy and Kirsten Berg pierced decades of judicial secrecy and uncovered major gifts to justices from a small set of politically influential donors.

Senior editor Jesse Eisinger, left, and Murphy, Mierjeski, Elliott, Berg and Kaplan Credit: Sarahbeth Maney/ProPublica

The series began a national conversation about ethics and judicial reform of the Supreme Court. In response to ProPublica’s reporting, the court announced in November that it had unanimously adopted the first ethics code in its 234-year history. Justice Clarence Thomas for the first time acknowledged that he should have reported selling real estate to billionaire Harlan Crow in 2014, writing in his annual financial disclosure form that he “inadvertently failed to realize” that the deal needed to be disclosed. Thomas also disclosed receiving three private jet trips from Crow, two of which ProPublica had already reported. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas of Crow and conservative legal activist Leonard Leo as part of its ongoing effort to investigate ethics lapses by justices.

In the series honored as a Pulitzer finalist in explanatory reporting, the Tribune, ProPublica and FRONTLINE used a trove of unreleased investigative files to produce a startling and exhaustive investigation of the Uvalde shooting, which included a documentary. It revealed what no one else had: States across the country are providing devastatingly insufficient training for law enforcement to confront a mass shooter, leaving critical and long-overlooked gaps in preparedness between children and the officers expected to protect them. The series involved the work of Lomi Kriel, Lexi Churchill, Perla Trevizo and Jessica Priest for ProPublica and the Tribune; Jinitzail Hernández and Zach Despart for the Tribune; and Juanita Ceballos, Michelle Mizner and Lauren Prestileo for FRONTLINE.

After the news investigation, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland unveiled the findings of a federal probe into the response. Garland pointed to missteps that led to delays in confronting the shooter. Then he turned to what he said was the biggest failure, one that required the most urgent action to avoid another colossal breakdown such as the one that cost lives that day: the lack of sufficient active shooter training for law enforcement. Garland’s comments validated the investigation’s finding that there is an astounding dearth of such instruction around the country.

ProPublica received Pulitzer Prizes for national reporting in 2020, feature writing in 2019, public service in 2017, explanatory reporting in 2016, national reporting in 2011 and investigative reporting in 2010. Local Reporting Network partner Anchorage Daily News won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2020.