Luttig resigns Fourth Circuit post.
May 10, 2006 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Luttig Resigns. Judge J. Michael Luttig, long considered a front-runner for a Supreme Court nomination, at least until he was passed over by President Bush, has resigned his position on the Fourth circuit. Luttig will take over as general counsel to Boeing. Read Boeing's press release and Luttig's resignation letter [pdf].
posted by monju_bosatsu (29 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Thank God there isn't any evidence of collusion between Luttig and the Military-industrial complex.
posted by gcbv at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2006

i wonder if boeing ever had in cases in front of him?
posted by empath at 9:43 AM on May 10, 2006

the resignation letter is awesome -- he makes it look like he's bravely volunteering to go off to war or something

and what gcbv said, but one does not want to sound, you know, shrill.
posted by matteo at 9:45 AM on May 10, 2006

full disclosure: I think Boeing made one of the most beautifully designed products since the industrial revolution, so I'm biased in their favor
posted by matteo at 9:47 AM on May 10, 2006

Dear Mr. President,
I quit!
Some Judge Guy
P.S Fishin' Accomplished!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:50 AM on May 10, 2006

That letter looks like he typed it himself on a typewriter, unless there's a font available that lines up the letters that way. So Boeing may want to introduce him to the 21st century.
posted by beagle at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2006

empath, a quick Westlaw search indicates that Boeing has not been a party to any case in the Fourth Circuit in which Luttig was on the panel. I suspect this decision has little to do with Boeing—despite the fanboy section of the resignation letter—and more to do with Luttig's failure to secure a nomination to the Supreme Court. It's well known that going on the Court was one of Luttig's prime ambitions, and I heard rumors of severe discontent in his chambers following Bush's nominations of Roberts and Alito. The notion that the opportunity with Boeing was "unique" seems a little silly to me. Luttig is one of the most prominent jurists in the country, and could have his pick of general counsel jobs.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:52 AM on May 10, 2006

Well, that and the money. He'll make many times his judicial salary at Boeing; his oblique reference to his familial obligations at the end of his resignation letter suggest that salary may have been a large consideration.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:58 AM on May 10, 2006

On it's face, this does not automatically exclude Luttig from one day being appointed to the supreme court. However, it does seem that he is taking himself "out of the running" by getting out of the judging business. I suspect Bush or Rove or whomever might've let him know that Alito's spot was his only shot, and that if Justice Stevens were to retire, they would appoint Edith Jones or some other woman (Jeffrey Rosen posits this Stevens-to-Jones transition in the current issue of The Atlantic).
I lived in Tyler TX when Luttig's father was killed by Napolean Beazley. Beazley was an acquaintance--I'd met him a few times--and I still think it's a damn shame that he was executed a couple years before the supreme court ruled that juvenile offenders could not be executed.
posted by mattbucher at 10:28 AM on May 10, 2006

and I heard rumors of severe discontent in his chambers following Bush's nominations of Roberts and Alito.

Unless the salary is fantastically good, it's still a bit strange that he's choosing to leave now - Stevens (may he live forever) is 84 and Luttig would have been on the short list for sure.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:29 AM on May 10, 2006

Stevens is 86.
posted by mattbucher at 10:30 AM on May 10, 2006

I suspect this decision has little to do with Boeing... Luttig is one of the most prominent jurists in the country, and could have his pick of general counsel jobs.

No doubt, but with the political/legal wars going on between Boeing and Airbus, the job promises to offer a high-profile challenge.
posted by three blind mice at 10:31 AM on May 10, 2006

The salary will be fantastically good. Judging by top general counsel salaries (and I assume Boeing will be up there), he could be making over a million with stock options. Federal appellate court judges with his experience make around $175,000 I think, so it is surely a step up.

Besides the money, he is not precluded from SCOTUS one day. If anything, this will allow people to say he has "real world" experience. Since the last two nominees have been white males, I doubt he will get his day in the sun, though.

Also, his love poem to Boeing was pretty creepy.
posted by Falconetti at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2006

In 2000, Rehnquist called the need to increase federal judicial salaries "the most pressing issue facing the Judiciary."

This old survey of general counsel jobs shows some variation, but I'd be willing to bet that with bonus the Boeing job is up over $1M per year plus significant stock options.

Rich. White. Lawyer.
posted by mattbucher at 10:41 AM on May 10, 2006

From Kos:

# For example, in a case in 1998 of McDonnell Douglas (recently acquired by Boeing), Luttig signed onto an opinion barring a husband from suing the company for a defective test aircraft crashing and killing his wife. Emory Bros. v. McDonnell Douglas, 148 F.3d 347.

# In 1997, Luttig signed onto a decision affirming summary judgement in favor of a subcontractor of Boeing, Kaiser Aero v. Alliant, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 39028

# In 1997, in another case involving Boeing subcontracting work from Grumman, Luttig signed onto another case favoring Boeing. Lake Fairfax Seven v. Grumman Aerospace, 41 Cont. Cas. Fed. (CCH) P77.
posted by daniel9223 at 10:46 AM on May 10, 2006

Fascinating. When one refers to "court intrigues" within a government, it doesn't usually refer to the Judicial Branch. Of course, Bush's choice to replace Luttig will certainly be ver-r-r-ry interesting.
posted by wendell at 11:04 AM on May 10, 2006

It's so tragic that Federal Judges need to resign their posts and take seven-figure corporate jobs in order to pay for their children's college bills. Won't someone please think of the children?
posted by psmealey at 11:38 AM on May 10, 2006

I am no Luttig fan, but the claim that his past decisions show a conflict of interest seems absurd, and, contrary to matteo's wishful thought, gcbv's claim that this demonstrates "collusion between Luttig and the Military-industrial complex" is quite certainly shrill.

The three cases cited by Kos are ridiculously tangential. First of all, they were decided almost 10 years ago. Do you really think this establishes a conflict of interest? If so, I would think that every federal judge who has been on the court any period of time would be conflicted. Furthermore, all three cases are unanimous, and Luttig wrote none of them. Kaiser Aero is an unpublished summary order, meaning that the decision was so easy to decide that the court did not even bother publishing it.

On second thought, what monju_bosatu said, especially about the money.
posted by huzzahhuzzah at 11:40 AM on May 10, 2006

Wasn't Ginsburg general counsel of the ACLU or something? I'm sure they have more business with the court then Boeing.

Anyway, hardly matters now.
posted by delmoi at 11:53 AM on May 10, 2006

We've got to keep these judges from retiring. Isn't there some sort of stop-loss program?
posted by dhartung at 12:16 PM on May 10, 2006

I just posted those Kos cases in case they were relevant - thanks huzzah for pointing out why they are probably not.
posted by daniel9223 at 12:50 PM on May 10, 2006

More from Concurring Opinions on why this is a big deal.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:57 PM on May 10, 2006

So because Bush has appointed 2 white males surely the next one must be a black woman in a wheelchair! Those Republican's and their quotas.

I'm calling bullshit before people start speculating that he quit because Bush was going to draw down in Iraq or rebuild New Orleans.
posted by srboisvert at 1:31 PM on May 10, 2006

"Sheer serendipity"
Isn't it great how thing just work out?
posted by 2sheets at 2:00 PM on May 10, 2006

Thank gosh - another nut job out of the way.
posted by rougy at 3:39 PM on May 10, 2006

I must say, I am plesantly surprised there isn't more knee-jerk reactions a la above from rougy.

Rougy, just out of perverse curiosity, why did you call him a nutjob? While I certainly disagree with at least some of his rulings, Luttig is an excellent and very intelligent judge. Just for kicks, go read his scathing rebuke to administration's shenenigans to remove Jose Padilla's case from SCOTUS' consideration (PDF opinion here). See, e.g.:

Because we believe that the transfer of Padilla and the withdrawal of our opinion at the government’s request while the Supreme Court is reviewing this court’s decision of September 9 would compound what is, in the absence of explanation, at least an appearance that the government may be attempting to avoid consideration of our decision by the Supreme Court, and also because we believe that this case presents an issue of such especial national importance as to warrant final consideration by that court, even if only by denial of further review, we deny both the motion and suggestion.

Plenty of other gems in there, and that's just one example off the top of my head.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 5:25 PM on May 10, 2006

In re-reading the Luttig opinion I linked above, I just can't resist posting the conclusion:

" the government surely must understand, although the various facts it has asserted are not necessarily inconsistent or without basis, its actions have left not only the impression that Padilla may have been held for these years, even if justifiably, by mistake — an impression we would have thought the government could ill afford to leave extant. They have left the impression that the government may even have come to the belief that the principle in reliance upon which it has detained Padilla for this time, that the President possesses the authority to detain enemy combatants who enter into this country for the purpose of attacking America and its citizens from within, can, in the end, yield to expediency with little or no cost to its conduct of the war against terror — an impression we would have thought the government likewise could ill afford to leave extant. And these impressions have been left, we fear, at what may ultimately prove to be substantial cost to the government’s credibility before the courts, to whom it will one day need to argue again in support of a principle of assertedly like importance and necessity to the one that it seems to abandon today. While there could be an objective that could command such a price as all of this, it is difficult to imagine what that objective would be."
posted by Pontius Pilate at 5:31 PM on May 10, 2006

Rougy, just out of perverse curiosity, why did you call him a nutjob?

Pontius - in the spirit of wholesome honesty - any darling of the American rightwing is a nutjob 90% of the time.

Just because he might luck out and make a reasonable ruling every once in a while, it doesn't change the fact that he's basically a corporatist right-wing yes man.

To his credit, since he was passed over by Bush so many times, perhaps he has more spine than I gave him credit for.

I'll keep an ear out.
posted by rougy at 8:01 PM on May 10, 2006

Wow, Luttig came out in favor of due process? What a maverick! This is what is known as an "intelligent" judge these days. Oh and don't think the Bush administration is not letting it be known far and wide that Luttig signed his professional death warrant that day. Karl Rove will use this opportunity to send the message to the community of ambitious professionals that either you play ball with this administration or you go home. This is a new subtle form of dictatorship that will be studied in the textbooks a century from now.
posted by any major dude at 8:36 AM on May 12, 2006

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