As a judge, Luttig is widely considered an ardent conservative, but his record reveals his independence, as do recent analyses of his opinions by several political scientists. He has stressed, to his law clerks and in a recent speech, intellectual honesty and adherence to precedent. He tells law clerks they will be fired if they fail to show him contradicting authority on a particular issue or tell him exactly how they view the case, even if they do not share his views. His clerks praise him as a teacher--and 40 of 42 have gone on to clerk at the Supreme Court, an unparalleled placement record.Can't filibuster that, can they? I mean, the filibuster compromisers can't legitimately say "extraordinary circumstances" here, can they?
Luttig has been highly critical of judicial activism on both sides of the ideological spectrum, in which he believes judges have decided cases based on a desired outcome instead of adhering to established law and taking that where it leads.
"At the end of the day, other than conscience, it is only analytical rigor, and the accountability that such renders possible, that can restrain a judiciary that serves for life and is at the pleasure of no one," Luttig wrote in a 2001 case.
As a result of that approach, Luttig sometimes reaches decisions that cannot be called conservative. In one recent case, for example, he departed from conservative colleagues to find that some people convicted of serious crimes had a constitutional right to get DNA evidence if it could prove their innocence.
His opinion writing is crisp and clear, and he is willing to confront colleagues--usually conservative ones--head on. He has parted ways with Wilkinson quite vehemently in several cases, prompting criticism that Luttig can be too sharp in disagreement.
I found the Tribune article via The Supreme Court Nomination Blog, one of the SCOTUSblog sub-blogs, which should heat up like mad tomorrow, along with the entire blogosphere, if Chief Justice Rehnquist retires. And if O'Connor retires too -- well, the excitement will be unbearable. Perhaps, Justice Stevens will bow down too. No, no, that would just kill us.
Anyway, keep an eye on the SCOTUSblog Discussion sub-blog, where they've been discussing Kelo all week, and where, tomorrow, they'll be discussing the Grokster case and the Ten Commandments case. Or I should say we, because I'll be joining in the Ten Commandments discussion.
UPDATE: You know what my favorite word was in the description of Judge Luttig's style? I use it in my "What I hope the Supreme Court will do in the Ten Commandments case" post.