Roberts and Luttig on Short List
Charles Lane and Jerry Markon have profiles on federal judges John G. Roberts Jr. and J. Michael Luttig, both of whom are said to be on President Bush’s short list for the Supreme Court.
Similar Appeal; Different Styles (WaPo, A4)
John G. Roberts Jr. and J. Michael Luttig have both marched up through the Republican ranks, from Supreme Court clerkships to White House jobs to the federal bench. Now the two area judges — Roberts sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Luttig is a Tysons Corner-based member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit — have emerged on President Bush’s short list of potential nominees to the Supreme Court, according to lawyers familiar with the administration’s deliberations.
Conservative activists in the Republican base view both as far more acceptable than Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who has become a top contender for the court, and have begun to promote the pair. But even though both judges are conservative — and close friends — they present a distinctly different choice in style and temperament that could influence their selection and say a great deal about how Bush wants to shape the court.
In his years as a lawyer, Roberts, 50, proved himself an affable and measured member of the Washington legal establishment. But his short tenure on the bench has meant fewer written opinions that can be parsed for his philosophy. Luttig, 51, is edgier, painting his ideas in bold intellectual strokes. He has left a long paper trail that liberal critics will try to mine to fight his appointment.
The difference between the two men is a bit like the difference between the two conservative justices they served — the easygoing William H. Rehnquist, for whom Roberts clerked in 1980 before Rehnquist became chief justice, and the combative Antonin Scalia, for whom Luttig clerked on the D.C. Circuit in 1982, and who is still a close friend. “Roberts is known as a much more judicious person. . . . Luttig would get certain people really jazzed up,” said a former administration official who, like other lawyers contacted for this article, declined to be named for fear of appearing to take sides. “For conservatives, Luttig is more exciting — because he is more excitable.”
Luttig does indeed sound like a more exciting choice, although Roberts would be much easier to confirm.