Hunting the source of leaks
As SJC is finding, it’s a very slow process
Ralph Gants, the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, asked the attorney general’s office, the State Ethics Commission, and the US Justice Department on Nov. 9 to investigate whether someone from their agencies improperly leaked to the Boston Globe an impounded transcript of an interview with House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
Nearly six months later, the attorney general and the State Ethics Commission have complied with Gants’s request. But the chief justice is still waiting to hear from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
Efforts to find out what’s taking the federal agency so long were unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s office did not return repeated phone calls. A spokesman for the Department of Justice didn’t return a phone call. And Carmen Ortiz, the US attorney for Massachusetts, declined comment on Wednesday outside a federal courtroom.
The slow progress in tracking down who leaked the DeLeo testimony comes at a time when leaks of confidential federal proceedings are not only driving the news cycle but stirring concerns about the confidentiality of federal investigations.
Former federal judge Nancy Gertner and former state prosecutor Jack Corrigan wrote an op-ed in the Globe on Wednesday raising concerns about the leak of what are supposed to be confidential materials. “Yes, there should be an investigation if there was real impropriety, but this time it should include the source of these leaks,” they wrote.
In late February, the Globe reported that federal prosecutors were looking into Sen. Brian Joyce’s involvement in a massive solar project at Stonehill College in Easton. Joyce’s attorney, Howard Cooper, issued a statement criticizing “the apparent improper leak by law enforcement of what is supposed to be a secret investigation.”
In DeLeo’s case, he gave testimony under oath to Paul Ware, a special counsel enlisted by the Supreme Judicial Court to investigate corruption at the state’s Probation Department. DeLeo’s testimony was supposed to be impounded and kept secret, but the Globe reported excerpts from his testimony in 2011 and then suggested he was less than truthful in an Oct. 28, 2015, story that relied on a full transcript of his testimony.
DeLeo complained his comments were taken out of context, and appealed to Gants on Oct. 30, 2015, to “investigate and identify the party or parties responsible for the knowing and malicious violation of the court’s order of impoundment and to hold such party or parties accountable for their actions, including referral to the appropriate authorities.”Gants subsequently asked the Ethics Commission, the attorney general, and the US Justice Department to investigate. Attorney General Maura Healey on Jan. 27 released her office’s investigation, which found no indication that anyone from her office released the DeLeo transcript to the Globe. The Ethics Commission has submitted a report, but refuses to say what’s in it. Ortiz, in a brief interview at the federal courthouse, said she had no comment on the DeLeo transcript or leaks of federal investigations in general.
What’s unclear is what the SJC will do if the Justice Department ignores its request or if none of the three agencies trace the source of the leak. A spokeswoman for the court declined comment.