J. Michael Luttig
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit|
August 2, 1991 – May 10, 2006
|Appointed by||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Seat established|
|Succeeded by||Steven Agee|
June 13, 1954 |
Tyler, Texas, U.S.
|Alma mater||Washington and Lee University
University of Virginia
Education and early work
Born in Tyler, Texas, Luttig graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1976. He then attended the University of Virginia School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctor degree in 1981. He served briefly in the Reagan administration, where his duties included reviewing potential judicial appointments and vetting them for ideological consistency with the administration's policies. From 1982 to 1984 he clerked for then-Judge Antonin Scalia of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, one of the potential judges he had vetted in his prior job, and for Chief Justice Warren Burger. Luttig later served as co-executor of Burger's one-page will that gained notoriety for Burger's failure to dictate how estate taxes should be paid. Luttig continued to work for Burger as a special assistant until 1985, when he entered private practice at the Washington office of Davis Polk & Wardwell. In 1989, Luttig returned to government service, holding various positions within the Department of Justice until 1991 under George H. W. Bush. His duties in the Justice Department included assisting Supreme Court nominees David Souter and Clarence Thomas with their Senate confirmation proceedings. His assistance of Thomas proved somewhat controversial because he assisted Thomas in his highly contested hearing after his own appointment to the federal bench had been approved by the Senate, although he did not take office as a judge until after the Thomas hearings had concluded.
On April 23, 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Luttig to fill a newly created seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Confirmed by the United States Senate on July 26, 1991 and receiving his commission on August 2, 1991, he became the youngest judge (at age 37) on a federal appeals court.
On the bench, Luttig was compared to Justice Scalia for his analytical rigor and for criticizing his colleagues for inconsistencies or embellishments in their judicial opinions. He was also similar to Scalia in that his judicial philosophy sometimes led to what were seen as anti-conservative opinions.
Luttig was mentioned frequently as being near the top of George W. Bush's list of potential nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States despite opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a dispute between Luttig and the Bush administration over the handling of the case of alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla (see below). Bush interviewed but ultimately did not choose Luttig to fill two Supreme Court vacancies in 2005.
Luttig was the leading "feeder" judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, with virtually all of his law clerks having gone on to clerk with conservative justices on the Supreme Court, a total of 40 with 33 clerking for either Justice Thomas or Justice Scalia. Luttig's clerks have nicknamed themselves "Luttigators".
John Luttig's murder
Luttig's father, John Luttig, was fatally shot in 1994 in a carjacking by Napoleon Beazley. Beazley was eventually executed after twice appealing to the Supreme Court, where Justices Antonin Scalia, David Souter, and Clarence Thomas recused themselves because of past associations with Luttig. Scalia recused himself because Luttig had clerked for him, and Justices David Souter and Clarence Thomas recused themselves because Luttig led the George H. W. Bush Administration's efforts to gain the Senate's confirmation for them.
Some have speculated whether this tragedy influenced Luttig's judging.
Jose Padilla and clash with Bush administration
In September 2005, Luttig wrote an opinion for a three-judge panel of his court, which upheld the government's power to designate Jose Padilla — the alleged "dirty bomber" captured at a Chicago airport — as an "enemy combatant" and detain him in a military brig without charge. In December the Bush administration, apparently anticipating a reversal in the Supreme Court, petitioned Luttig's court for approval to transfer Padilla to civilian custody for a criminal trial. This move set off a dispute between the Bush administration and Luttig. Luttig's panel refused to grant the transfer, castigating the government for potentially harming its "credibility before the courts." The government petitioned the Supreme Court to allow the transfer, arguing that the lower court's refusal encroached on the power of the President. The Supreme Court granted the government's request.
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld
In the case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Luttig disagreed with the majority opinion that Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen captured in Afghanistan and held as an enemy combatant, did not deserve "meaningful judicial review" of his case.
In 2006 Luttig resigned to become General Counsel and senior vice president for The Boeing Company. In his resignation letter, Luttig wrote, "Boeing may well be the only company in America for which I would have ever considered leaving the court." He also mentioned his two children's upcoming college education; the position at Boeing promised more pay than the federal judgeship. At the time of his resignation, federal appellate judges were paid $175,100 annually. According to Boeing's 2008 Annual Report, Luttig's total compensation for 2008 was $2,798,962.
- List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States
- George W. Bush Supreme Court candidates
- Bazelon, Emily (July 1, 2005). "The Supreme Court Shortlist". Slate. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- Deborah Sontag, "The Power of the Fourth," The New York Times Magazine, March 9, 2003
- Bazelon, Emily; David Newman (July 1, 2005). "The Supreme Court Shortlist". Slate. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- Woellert, Lorraine (July 18, 2005). "Full Court Press". Businessweek Online. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- "Appeals court judge a rising star among conservatives". CNN. August 22, 2001. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- "Clerks Highlight Supreme Court’s Polarization" article by Adam Liptak in The New York Times September 6, 2010, accessed September 7, 2010
- Bonner, Raymond (August 14, 2001). "Three Abstain as Supreme Court Declines to Halt Texas Execution". The New York Times.
- McGough, Michael (January 2, 2006). "How do you solve a problem like Padilla?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- Bravin, Jess; Lunsford, J. Lynn (May 11, 2006). "Breakdown of Trust Led Judge Luttig to Clash with Bush". Wall Street Journal: A1. Retrieved 2006-05-11.
- Markon, Jerry (May 11, 2006). "Appeals Court Judge Leaves Life Appointment for Boeing". The Washington Post: A11. Retrieved 2006-05-11.
- Markon, Jerry (May 11, 2006). "Appeals Court Judge Leaves Life Appointment for Boeing". Washington Post. pp. A11. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- J. Michael Luttig at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- US News profile
- Luttig's resignation letter
|New seat||Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit