The Biden White House is getting a major endorsement for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson from a prominent conservative.
In a statement obtained exclusively by CNN, retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, considered a luminary in conservative legal circles, enthusiastically endorsed Jackson, describing her as a candidate who is “eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.”
“Indeed, she is as highly credentialed and experienced in the law as any nominee in history, having graduated from the Harvard Law School with honors, clerked at the Supreme Court, and served as a Federal Judge for almost a decade.” Luttig added.
Luttig played a critical role in the heated fight over the certification of the 2020 presidential election. In a series of tweets, he provided legal ammunition to help former Vice President Mike Pence defy then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.
In his statement of support for Jackson, Luttig called for bipartisan support, writing that, “Republicans and Democrats alike should give their studied advice – and then their consent – to the President’s nomination of Judge Jackson.”
“Republicans, in particular,” wrote Luttig, “should vote to confirm Judge Jackson.”
Luttig also expressed his support for Biden’s campaign promise that he would nominate the court’s first Black woman, saying that Republicans had been wrong to criticize the pledge.
“The President knew at the time that there were any number of highly qualified black women on the lower federal courts from among whom he could choose – including Judge Jackson – and Republicans should have known that the President would nominate one of those supremely qualified black women to succeed Justice Breyer,” he said.
Noting the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, Luttig called on Republicans “to confirm Judge Jackson out of political calculation, even if they cannot bring themselves to confirm her out of political magnanimity, and then proudly take the deserved credit for their part in elevating the first black female jurist to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The endorsement of a Biden nominee by a highly respected retired judge, who has spent much of his career entrenched in conservative judicial philosophy, may well dilute some of the far right’s criticism of Jackson.
Early in his career, Luttig worked in the Reagan White House and served as a law clerk to legal titan Antonin Scalia when he was on a federal appeals court. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed Luttig to the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals. He stepped down from the bench in 2006.
Role in 2020 election certification battle
Luttig played a major role in helping Pence defy Trump and certify Biden as the winner of the presidential election on January 6, 2021.
Just before January 6, one of Luttig’s former clerks, John Eastman, took part in an Oval Office meeting with Trump to try to pressure Pence to overturn the election. Eastman had written a now-famous point-by-point memo that outlined an outlandish legal argument justifying how Pence had no obligation to certify the election for Joe Biden.
Pence’s personal lawyer, Richard Cullen, also an old friend of Luttig’s, reached out asking for advice. Ultimately, Luttig, a Twitter neophyte, took to social media to denounce Eastman’s reasoning, and to say that the Constitution gave Pence no powers to reject electors and overturn the election as Trump was demanding.
On January 6, Pence cited Luttig’s tweets in his letter explaining why he would certify the election.
Luttig confirmed to CNN that he testified to the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol in November about his conversations and role in the lead up to that day.
“I understood that this was a signal moment in history,” he said.
A year after the attacks, on January 7, 2022, Luttig tweeted, “Our leaders seem incapable or unwilling to lead us in this moment when we need leadership most. If our leaders refuse to lead us to where we want to go and need to be, then we must go there ourselves — and leave them behind.”
Luttig also signed a provocative “friend of the court” brief in the Supreme Court in support of a New York law that is at the center of a blockbuster Second Amendment case currently before the high court. While Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – another former Luttig clerk – and 24 other Republicans told the justices that the law should be struck down arguing that it only allows “a select few members of the public to bear arms,” Luttig came out in support of the law.
“Text, history, and tradition,” Luttig wrote, “show that a constitutional right to bear arms outside the home, in public and in public places, has never been unrestricted and indeed, has historically been restricted in many public places.”
Beginning this week, Jackson will meet with senators, and Democrats hope her confirmation will come before the Senate’s April recess. If confirmed, she will be officially sworn in after Breyer’s retirement expected in late June or early July.