May 30, 2006

Speculating about why Luttig left the bench.

Is it okay to speculate? This ABA Journal article is full of speculation, including the ample portion I dished up.


Dave said...

Is there really any need to speculate? Would you pass up the pay package that Boeing could offer him?

I can't believe that someone is so devoted to public service that he would be unswayed by the promise of earning multiples of his government-mandated salary. Well, that's the same thing as saying I don't understand the attraction of serving for life on the Supreme Court.

Dave said...

Ann: I see from reading the comments you make in the article, that you think it is a matter of money as well.

The one reason I would hesitate to agree (my earlier comment notwithstanding) is that if money were the issue that Luttig resigned, how come more such judges have not resigned over the same issue?

Wickedpinto said...

a "non partisan" community, is depicting a simple commercial decision as a partisan excercise?

Money, politics and the rest doesn't matter, but in this case it does?

Tell me about the godlike seperation the judiciary deserves?

I might have missed it the first 12 times (the number of justices who have left in my lifetime) I heard it.

Bruxatus said...


Did you know that Thersite's identity has been revealed on ProteinWisdom? One of Jeff's crew searched him out and has blown his cover.

*this is for Ann's benefit, the rest of you should stay here a read her blog ;)

John Jenkins said...

I think I do understand the attraction of serving on the Supreme Court, but once an Appeals Court judge knows he isn't going any higher (passed over twice), why not leave government service for a better-paying job? It's not like federal judges are poor, but they're not really making a killing either. It makes sense to me, once you've gone as far as you can, to try something new.

Craig said...

The most prescient comments in the ABA article: "The speculation 'is sort of a Rorschach test of one’s politics.' .... 'People are speculating, and that may say more about us than him.'"

All other speculating (especially including that of the above-noted speaker) should be read with that in mind.

Joe said...

Before I even read the article I thought he must have kids in college.

Kevin S. said...

Why don't more judges leave for the money?

No doubt that for many who serve, the non-economic benefits (exercising power; lifestyle; pyschic rewards from doing public service; prestige) outweigh the opportunity costs.

But there is another major factor at work in Luttig's case: Luttig did not have an opportunity to accumulate a great mass of wealth before becoming a judge at 37.

He spent his first four years out of law school in the Office of the President, clerking (2 years), and as a special assistant to the Chief Justice. Though I am not sure of the salary with the last job, the first 3 posts are not lucrative. Then he worked in private practive for only 4 years (I assume as an associate) before heading to three posts in DOJ. He likely did well in practice and the DOJ posts pay much better than his first posts, but for the majority of his days, he received a government check--comfortable, but not exorbetent.

Then he served as a judge in Alexandria. The DC metro area is not a cheap place to live, and though his salary on the 4th Circuit is pretty comfortable, it isn't the kind of salary where you aren't concerned when you get paid....

Plus, note that his youth not only means that he missed time to make money when other would be judges were entering their high earning years, but also it meant that Luttig would have to wait 28 years after appointment before he could cash out on that full salary pension. See 28 USC 371.

Richard Dolan said...

Kudos to Ann on being the "go to" professor on this one. Do you think the article's author called you for comment because of your blog about Luttig's resignation a week or two ago?

Like a lot of other idle exercises, speculation of the sort reflected by this article is done mostly for the amusement it provides to those who read (and write) this stuff. There's obviously nothing wrong with it, but there's also almost no real content to the article either. And who (other than Mrs. Luttig) really cares whether Judge Luttig resigned for the money, for reasons of personal pique, out of boredom, in the hope of improving his chances of being named to the SCOTUS, or something else? Like most people, he probably had several reasons for a major, life-changing decision such as this.

The rag that published it -- the ABA Journal -- is aimed at lawyers, and like every other group, lawyers love to gossip about those among them who have done well. The American Lawyer is constantly publishing stats of "profits per partner" and the like for the large national lawfirms. Like professors with the US News rankings, everyone dumps on those stats but also makes sure to read them carefully. The article's political angle -- trying to conscript Luttig into the anti-Bush forces --is pretty pathetic, but also not surprising given that it's the ABA editing and publishing the story.

Ann Althouse said...

Richard: I was definitely called because I posted on the subject. This kind of thing frequently happens. Sometimes reporters call me thinking I have information, when I'm just speculating. There's a kind of speculating and, really, fooling around that goes with blogging. That's why some of my comments in the ABA Journal are along the lines of -- this is just idle speculation, who knows?