WASHINGTON (AP) — When Gail Curley began her job as U.S. Supreme Court marshal less than a year ago, she would have expected to work mostly behind the scenes: overseeing the court’s police force and the operations of the marble-columned building where the judges work.
His most public role was supposed to be in the courtroom, where the Marshal strikes a gavel and announces the entry of the court’s nine judges. His brief script includes “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” – meaning “listen to you” – and concludes: “God save the United States and this honorable court”.
Earlier this month, however, Curley was given an explosive assignment, overseeing an unprecedented breach of Supreme Court secrecy, the leak of a draft opinion and apparent votes in an abortion case. major. Leaks to Politico suggest the court appears set to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to abortion. It sparked protests and round-the-clock security at the judges’ homes, demonstrations in court and concerns about violence following the court’s final ruling.
People who know Curley have described the former Army colonel and military attorney as possessing the right temperament for a busy leak investigation: intelligent, private, apolitical and unlikely to be intimidated.
“I am confident that if the truth can be found here, they will find it and present it in an unbiased way,” the retired army brigadier said. General Patrick Huston, his direct supervisor at the Pentagon in his last military job before the Supreme Court. Huston said he was incredibly impressed with Curley and she had a great reputation as a leader, but even as a two-year-old boss he didn’t know if she had a spouse or children.
Through a court spokeswoman, Curley declined a request for an interview. She is the 11th court marshal and second woman to hold the position. She is also in some ways constrained in her investigation by her position, which was created just after the Civil War, in 1867. Experts say the notice draft leak was probably not a crime, and the tools of Curley’s investigation are limited. She could theoretically hire an outside law firm to help her, and in other cases of criminal records, the FBI has been called. members of the tribunal – including judges – having access to a draft opinion.
The investigation does not appear to have any real precedent. In 1973, the outcome of the Roe case was leaked hours before it was announced. The then chief justice was furious and threatened to take polygraph tests, but the lessor quickly came forward and explained it was an accident.
Although the circumstances are different, overseeing an investigation is nothing new for Curley. During her military career, she regularly supervised a dozen criminal and administrative investigations and supervised a large number of attorneys and paralegals, Huston said. She was an authority on international law and the laws surrounding armed conflict, but the investigations she oversaw throughout her career could range from criminal cases involving the military to contractual matters. Huston described her as “not the kind of person who would ever be intimidated by anything”.
Curley began her military career at West Point, where just under 10% of her class of 1991 were women. Lisa Freidel, a member of the same 25-member society as Curley, remembered her as kind and studious but also as a “pretty serious person”.
“She didn’t like the antics of some boys, some guys, in our company. They were young men. They do stupid things. She didn’t like it,” Freidel recalled, adding that Curley “wanted to be around intellectuals, smart people to challenge her.”
Curley, was nicknamed “Swirlin’ Curl” in the West Point yearbook, which listed her hometown as Baltimore. She was also somewhat introverted, Freidel said, adding that she had never met Curley’s parents, just an aunt and uncle, and didn’t remember talking about siblings.
At school, Curley was interested in American politics and government, an interest that coincided with a requirement of West Point: to be up to date with the news. The New York Times was delivered every morning, and the cadets were supposed to be able to speak about four articles in the paper each day, Freidel recalled.
“You had to make sure your shoes were polished, your belt buckles were all polished and everything before training and try to memorize the paper,” she said.
Still, Curley found time for extracurricular activities. An Home Affairs club she was a member of took a senior year trip to Washington that included a meeting with Judge Sandra Day O’Connor. “See you one day at the White House!” reads its entry in the directory.
After graduating, she joined the Army Signal Corps, which is tasked with setting up field communications systems.
“I’ve been very lucky in my career,” Curley said of that time according to a 2017 news article. “As a young army signals officer, I was able to lead a large platoon in Europe on my first posting…it was at a time when women were not allowed to serve as platoon leaders in certain jobs.”
She eventually earned a law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and became an Army attorney. Her career took her to the United States but also to Afghanistan for a year. She later spent three years in Germany as chief legal adviser to the commander of the United States Army in Europe, first Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, now retired, then Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli. Cavoli, now a four-star general, was named NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander earlier this month.
In Germany, Curley was the senior army lawyer overseeing some 300 lawyers across Europe. She also provided “legal review and advice on the millions of things we were doing,” Hodges said in an interview.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone with more integrity,” Hodges said, adding that Curley also had a sense of humor and “a real dose of humility.”
The three-star general said that because he loved and respected her so much, he sometimes teased her. She had no problem defending herself, he said.
“She had the confidence to know that her IQ was about 40 points higher than mine,” he said. “And so she can afford to have confidence in herself.”
AP reporter Ben Fox in Washington and AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.