Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig, a Supreme Court contender and longtime fixture of the conservative legal landscape, made a sudden announcement Wednesday that he was leaving the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals immediately for the job of senior vice president and general counsel of the Boeing Co.

Luttig, a former law clerk to the late Chief Justice Warren Burger and to Antonin Scalia when Scalia was an appeals judge, was on President George W. Bush’s short-list for the recent Supreme Court vacancies filled by John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr.The prospects for another white male to be named to the next vacancy appear slim, but in an interview Wednesday, Luttig said his high court chances were not a factor.

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