- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

RICHMOND — Judge J. Michael Luttig, mentioned last year as a possible U.S. Supreme Court nominee, resigned yesterday from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to accept a job as senior vice president and general counsel for Boeing Co.

Judge Luttig, a favorite of the Republican Party’s conservative wing, was named to the federal bench by the first President Bush in 1991.

“This opportunity just came out of the blue,” he told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from his court chambers. “I was not looking to leave the court and did not expect to leave the court. After considering it, it seemed an opportunity we could not forgo.”

Judge Luttig said his decision had nothing to do with being passed over for Supreme Court nominations that went to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

In his resignation letter to President Bush, Judge Luttig wrote: “For as long as I can remember, it was my dream to serve on the United States Court of Appeals, and the experience has far exceeded even all that I had imagined.”

White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said yesterday: “The president regrets the loss of Judge Luttig’s distinguished service on the federal judiciary, but respects his decision and wishes him and his family the best.”

Judge Luttig was 37 when he was appointed to the 4th Circuit, becoming the youngest federal appeals court judge in the country. The Richmond-based appeals court is widely viewed as the most conservative in the nation.

In 1998, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office hand-picked Judge Luttig to issue an emergency stay of a lower court’s decision blocking a new law banning a form of late-term abortion. Judge Luttig later served on the court’s three-judge panel that upheld the law.

The same year, Judge Luttig wrote the court’s ruling striking down a federal law that allowed rape victims to sue their attackers for violating their civil rights.

Judge Luttig previously served as an aide to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and as an assistant counsel in the Reagan White House.

Judge William Wilkins, chief judge of the 4th Circuit, praised Judge Luttig for timely opinions and for his vigorous questioning of lawyers arguing before the court.

“He always did his homework beforehand. He was as familiar with the record as the lawyers were. He could engage and really probe into issues before the court,” he said.

At Boeing, he will succeed Douglas G. Bain, who announced plans to retire July 1. Judge Luttig, his wife, Elizabeth, and their 14-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son will relocate to the Chicago area.

• AP writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

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