Court investigators are hot on the case and the leaker might be in trouble. Under scrutiny: Cell phone data.
Anyone thinking of running afoul of the law should ponder well the writings of Ann Rule, prolific true-crime writer and quintessential armchair detective.
Unlike other true-crime writers and content creators, Rule isn’t ghoulish. Part of the reason is her dedication to portraying the crime scene investigators, criminal prosecutors, forensic experts and homicide detectives as the real heroes in her true-life tales. Rule’s empathetic, introspective delving into their lives and work should be enough to give all the would-be miscreants in the world pause.
There may not be one in every police station in America, but there is one in every Ann Rule book; an archetypal, apocryphal, antithesis of the Criminal Mastermind:
The Sherlock Holmes.
“I love what I do,” these top gumshoes inevitably say. “I’ve never worked a day in my life.”
And that is what should, and does, stop most scofflaw miscreants in their tracks. It makes their blood run cold. Commit a crime and the police will catch you. Do something bad enough, and federal law enforcement agencies might get involved and then you really haven’t got a prayer.
They don’t always get it right, but plenty of dogged investigators do in fact get their man. As police officers like to say, the criminals have to get lucky every single time- forever- to keep from getting caught; the cops only need to get lucky once.
A criminal might be smarter than a cop; criminals able to outsmart all the cops are, thankfully, few and far between. Law breakers should understand a basic truth: There are people in this world who live to investigate mysteries.
For The Sherlock Holmes, it isn’t personal, it isn’t a paycheck. Dispassionately, calmly and with unassailable logic, they will pick apart a puzzle, piece by piece, day after day, until they solve it.
The burden of proof in the American justice system is very high, and with good reason. Proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” to the satisfaction of 12 law laypersons isn’t always even the goal of The Sherlock Holmes. Often in “unsolved” cases, the police know exactly who done it, even if they can’t prove it.
Sherlockian detectives are nothing if not patient. Time is on their side. DNA technology is improving all the time, couples get divorced and ex-spouses spill the beans, suspects commit other crimes, additional evidence or witnesses come to light; Once a Sherlock has the bit in their teeth, nothing will stop them from solving the mystery, even it’s only to their own satisfaction.
Sometimes Sherlocks do what they do to catch bad guys, hunt monsters, make the world a better place; for truth, justice and the American way. Most of the time though, they do it because they just can help themselves. It’s an obsession. They have no choice. Their minds have seized on a question and they become almost savant in a singleminded, unwavering determination.
At least one such investigator appears to be helming the search for the Supreme Court leaker.
While the American media machine and the international press long ago moved on from the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade- and stopped speculating on the identity of the leaker before most even bothered starting- the Supreme Court itself has not forgotten the incident.
Far from it.
Court investigators, led by Supreme Court marshal, Gail Curley, have been aggressively on the hunt for the leaker since just after Politico published the unreleased draft opinion on May 2, 2022.
Almost a month later, investigators are moving to examine cell phone data. 75 people had access to the draft opinion leaked to Politico. It is the kind of closed suspect pool of which good detectives dream. Clearly, they have no intention of letting this go.
“Supreme Court officials are escalating their search for the source of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, taking steps to require law clerks to provide cell phone records and sign affidavits,” reported CNN on May 31, 2022, citing, “three sources with knowledge of the efforts”.
“Some clerks are apparently so alarmed over the moves, particularly the sudden requests for private cell data, that they have begun exploring whether to hire outside counsel,” continued the CNN report.
Translation: The leaker or leakers, likely terrified of imminent discovery, is probably the same source cited by the CNN story.
“That’s what similarly situated individuals would do in virtually any other government investigation,” an appellate lawyer was quoted as saying by CNN. “It would be hypocritical for the Supreme Court to prevent its own employees from taking advantage of that fundamental legal protection.”
Yes, indeed; who understands the need for legal counsel in a government or potentially criminal investigation better than law clerks and staff members of the Supreme Court?
“The young lawyers selected to be law clerks each year are regarded as the elite of the elite,” CNN continued. “They are overwhelmingly graduates of Ivy League law schools and have had prior clerkships with prominent US appellate court judges.”
“Their one-year service becomes a golden ticket to prestigious law firms, top government jobs or professorships,” admits CNN frankly, an admission of both what the leaker risked in releasing the draft opinion to the press and the likely consequences they face once discovered.
Lawyers who can’t maintain confidentiality aren’t in demand by prestigious law firms, however sterling their other qualifications, education or experience.
While many progressives have defended the leaker, assuming them to be a progressive committed to preserving Roe v. Wade, that is far from a foregone conclusion. There is a strong possibility the leaker is from one of the conservative Justices.
If the leak was politically motivated, which seems likely, it would have benefitted vulnerable Democrats much more had it happened closer to Election Day, 2022. Most political analysts agree Democrats are facing a tough climb this mid-term election. Turning out Democratic voters is going to be key.
Come November, the furor over the leaked draft opinion could have long since evaporated. The Supreme Court Justices seem in no hurry to formalize such an opinion, if indeed it ever is formalized.
Even if the leaker was a progressive concerned about preserving Roe v. Wade, allowing the leak to go un-investigated and unpunished throws the door open to future leaks. Progressives might be less enthusiastic about leakers in future if those leaks appear to benefit conservatives- as indeed this one might.
The leak, and the leaker, is a sunk cost for the court, at this point. Preventing future Supreme Court leaks, and dissuading any more political activism from that quarter, is probably the true purpose and goal of this investigation and it is a worthy one, however in sympathy liberals might feel for the leaker’s motives.
For the good of the court, for the preservation of the Union, Republicans and Democrats alike should hope court investigators solve the mystery.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)