J. Michael Luttig, 51, has a conservative legal pedigree that includes clerkships for Judge Antonin Scalia, now a Supreme Court justice, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1982-83 and for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in 1983-84.

A graduate of Washington and Lee University and the University of Virginia law school, Luttig served in the Justice Department during the first Bush administration, where he helped Justices Clarence Thomas and David H. Souter win Senate confirmation. President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in 1991, when Luttig was 37.

Despite his reputation as a staunch conservative, in 2002 Luttig became the first federal appellate judge to rule that inmates have a constitutional right to post-conviction DNA testing to try to prove their innocence, calling it "a matter of basic fairness." In 1999, he granted protection to a female college football kicker under the federal law, known as Title IX, that bans sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs.

He has sometimes clashed with other members of the 4th Circuit, including fellow conservative J. Harvie Wilkinson III. In 2003, Luttig wrote a dissenting opinion that supported the Bush administration's position that it could designate and detain "enemy combatants" with little judicial scrutiny.

-- Charles Lane