Luttig’s departure — the conservative crack-up theory

There is speculation today that Judge Luttig’s resignation from the Fourth Circuit was related to unhappiness with the Bush administration’s posture in the case of Jose Padilla. Readers may recall that Luttig wrote an opinion taking the position that the government could hold Padilla in a military prison without bringing charges. But the administration later decided to file charges against Padilla in federal court, treating him in effect like a normal criminal suspect. Luttig then wrote an opinion stating that the attorney general’s actions cast doubt on the administration’s “credibility before the courts.” The administration’s lawyers responded that the judge “defies both law and logic.”

I don’t know Judge Luttig, nor have I heard anyone who knows him well discuss his reasons for leaving the bench. However, it seems implausible to suppose that Luttig, or any federal judge, would step down because the president took a legal position he didn’t like. That kind of thing comes with the territory. It can make a judge mad, but it’s not likely to influence his major life decisions.

It’s far from unheard of for a federal judge to move on after many years of service, especially a judge who has children who are getting close to college age.


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