J. Michael Luttig
J. Michael Luttig, (born in Tyler, Texas, 1954) was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, having been appointed to a newly created seat by President George H.W. Bush on April 23, 1991, and confirmed by the United States Senate on July 26, 1991. He resigned on May 10, 2006 to become the general counsel for Boeing.
Luttig graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1976. After college, he worked as an aide in the chambers of then Chief Justice Warren Burger before returning to school and receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1981. At Virginia, he was not a member of the school's law review, nor was he selected for the Order of the Coif, to which the top ten percent of the class is selected.
He briefly worked in the White House. His duties at the White House included vetting potential federal judges for ideological consistency with Reagan administration principles. Among the candidates he vetted was a University of Chicago law professor, Antonin Scalia. He supported Scalia's candidacy for a spot on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and was selected by Scalia as one of his first law clerks for the year 1982-1983.
Following his year with Scalia, he clerked for his former boss, then Chief Justice Warren Burger from 1983-1984. Most D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court clerks have served on their law school's law review and ranked near the top of their class. Luttig is unusual in having had both D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court clerkships without these credentials.
Luttig remained as a special assistant to the Chief Justice until 1985, when he was replaced by his close friend and law school classmate Timothy Flanagan. Luttig then went into private practice with the Washington, DC, office of Davis Polk & Wardwell. In 1989, Luttig returned to government service, holding offices in the United States Department of Justice until his appointment to the Court of Appeals.
Luttig was mentioned frequently during the early years of during George W. Bush's presidency as being near the top of the list of potential nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States, but did not receive one of the nominations that came open.
Luttig became personally close to Warren Burger during his post-college and post-law school stints in Burger's chambers, and served along with Burger's son as co-executor of Burger's estate.
Judical outlook and record
Luttig is often cast as a mini-Scalia. The characterization fits him well. In his judicial opinions, he sometimes rejects the statesman model in favor of cutting sarcasm and has shown a tendency to adhere to his own restrained method of judging even on the rare occasions when it leads him to unpopular or anti-conservative positions. Fairly or not, some Luttig watchers speculate as to whether a personal tragedy in his past—the murder of his father in a carjacking in 1994—has influenced his approach to criminal law. Others not e that he was conservative and sceptical of enhanced rights for criminal defendants well before this personal tragedy.
Civil Rights and Liberties
Voted unsuccessfully for the full 4th Circuit to rehear the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen captured in Afghanistan and held as an enemy combatant in the United States. The panel opinion (written by J. Harvie Wilkinson III) denied Hamdi's claims by deferring to the power of the president, while at the same time preserving a limited role for judicial review. Luttig charged Wilkinson both with going too far and not far enough. In Luttig's view, his approach to the case failed to acknowledge that Hamdi was denied "meaningful judicial review" and failed to defend the full authority of the president. (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 2003)
Writing for the 4th Circuit as a whole, struck down certain aspects of the Violence Against Women Act, a far-reaching statute that allowed victims of gender-motivated violence to bring claims in federal court. Luttig argued that Congress could not authorize suits for damages against states through its power to regulate interstate commerce. The Supreme Court later endorsed Luttig's basic conclusions by a 5-4 vote. (Brzonkala v. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1999)
Separation of Church and State
Voted unsuccessfully (along with Wilkinson) to reconsider a case in which a three-judge panel found that a superintendent at the Virginia Military Institute who required cadets to say a prayer before eating supper in the mess hall possibly violated the First Amendment principle of separation of church and state. (Mellen v. Bunting, 2003)
Environmental Protection and Property Rights
Dissented from an opinion (by Wilkinson) upholding various Fish and Wildlife Service regulations promulgated under the Endangered Species Act. In Luttig's view, the regulations overstepped the federal government's role because they reached only a small number of wolves with no discernable connection to any economic activity. Luttig took issue with Wilkinson for calling the pro-states'-rights decisions of the Rehnquist Court' "judicial activism." (Gibbs v. Babbitt, 2000)
Failed to convince the 4th Circuit to rehear a decision that granted immunity to police officers who handcuffed a man to a metal pole in a shopping-center parking lot in the middle of the night. Luttig said the officers' actions were plainly unconstitutional. (Robles v. Prince George's County, 2002)
Voted to deny rehearing in a case about South Carolina's decision to offer "choose life" license plates. Luttig's vote helped to uphold a ruling that the license-plate program violated the First Amendment because it did not offer pro-choice advocates a similar opportunity to make license plates that asserted their views. (Planned Parenthood of S.C. Inc. v. Rose, 2004)
Stayed a district court's judgment invalidating Virginia's ban of so-called partial-birth abortion on the theory that the law was constitutional. The Supreme Court later disagreed by a vote of 5-4. (Richmond Medical Center for Women v. Gilmore, 2000)