Thursday, February 24, 2005

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The Honorable Michael Luttig

Michael Luttig, as mentioned in yesterday's post, has the distinct honor of hailing from the great state of Texas. Now for those of you from the other 49 states, you may think I mean this tongue in check, but if you are from Texas you will realize when I say this I mean it. Michael Luttig was born and raised in Tyler Texas which is in the eastern part of the state, near Louisiana. So +1 for being from Texas. He then left Texas to attend Washington and Lee University in Lexington Virginia, and after he graduated from there he attended the University of Virginia Law School.

After graduation he served as Judge Antonin Scalia's law clerk on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington from 1982-1983. He is widely toted as a Scalia protege. -10 for the Scalia protege connection or should it be higher?

He then was the assistant to and clerked for Mr. Chief Justice Warren Burger from 1983-1985. It was the end of Burger's career, call it a wash.

From 1985-1989 he was in private practice, and in 1989 he went to work for the Justice Department where he helped George H.W. Bush get Souter and Thomas though the Senate and on the Supreme Court. +1 for Souter, -10 for Thomas.

In 1991, he was appointed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals by George H.W. Bush. Where he is "I think there is no question that he is the most conservative judge on the most conservative court of appeals in the country" (John H. Blume professor Cornell Law School) The highlights of his decisions do show him to be conservative to very conservative. He has found portions of VAWA unconstitutional, because Congress went beyond its powers by allowing women to sue their attackers in the federal system. In 1997, He issued the ruling that the state could require parental notification prior to a minor having an abortion. In 1998, he overruled an lower court ruling and upheld the Virginia partial birth abortion ban, the Supreme Court eventually reversed Luttig. It is also said again by Blume that Luttig "has never voted in favor of a death row inmate in a capital case."

Capital Cases present or should present a dilemma for Luttig, but "He is a man who is not tortured by doubt over the correctness of his judicial philosophy" (Bruce Fein Constitutional scholar and lawyer). In 1994, Luttig's father was murdered in the driveway of his home. Three men attempted to carjack his parents car and in the process shot and killed his father, and wounded his mother. Luttig moved his office to Tyler during the trial of the men responsible for his father's death. One of the men, Beazley, was charged with Capital Murder and the death penalty was sought. To his credit in an interview with the local Tyler paper Luttig says he did not push for the death penalty. He did testify at the trial though, giving victim impact testimony. Beazley was convicted, sentenced to die and executed in 2002. Luttig said of Beazley's trial "Things being as they are, I believe Beazley received the fairest trial possible, in part because I was there." Luttig has never recused himself from a capital case, saying that he has no bias.

I don't know how to award a plus or minus to the above paragraph without discounting real lost lives. That of Michael Luttig's father, and those executed; but I do believe there is a bias. Judges are people, as are crime victims both have bias it would be foolish to expect less.

There you have Judge Michael Luttig. Who will it be tomorrow from the published short list? Who will I pick to pick on?