Breakdown of Trust Led Judge Luttig To Clash With Bush
Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig was at work in his chambers here when he received a telephone call telling him to switch on the television. There, he saw Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announce that the government would file charges against Jose Padilla in a federal court -- treating the accused terrorist like a normal criminal suspect.We have seen in the polls that this administration has little credibility with the people. It would appear they have little credibility with even their own in the judicial branch. This could be significant. You have to wonder how Roberts and Alto feel. I would imagine that certain individuals in the administration are wondering too.
The judge was stunned. Two months earlier, he had written a landmark opinion saying the government could hold Mr. Padilla without charge in a military brig. (Read the opinion.) The decision validated President Bush's claim that he could set aside Mr. Padilla's constitutional rights in the name of national security. The judge assumed the government had a compelling reason to consider the suspect an extraordinary threat. Now Mr. Gonzales wanted the courts to forget the whole case.
It didn't take long for the judge's anger to burst out into the open. The next month he wrote that moves such as the attorney general's cast doubt on the Bush administration's "credibility before the courts." Judge Luttig tried to block Mr. Padilla's transfer to civilian custody from the brig. (Read the opinion.) The administration's top litigator fired back that the judge "defies both law and logic."