Judge J. Michael Luttig Kicks Off Crossing Divides Spring Series

Judge J.  Michael Luttig and Dean Heather Gerken

The Ronnie F. Heyman ’72 Crossing Divides Program hosted Judge J. Michael Luttig in conversation with Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor Heather K. Gerken on Feb. 20.

Judge Luttig is a widely respected lawyer and jurist who served as a federal circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1991 to 2006. He currently serves as counselor and special advisor to the Coca-Cola Company and its board of directors. This February, he joined the University of Virginia’s Karsh Institute of Democracy as its first Distinguished Fellow in Law and Democracy.

Judge Luttig also co-chairs the American Bar Association Task Force for American Democracy, whose mission is to boost voter confidence in elections and educate Americans on the foundational role of democracy and the rule of law in American life. Gerken was named to the Task Force for American Democracy in 2023.

“Judge Luttig’s commitment to reasoned debate, his insistence on putting principle over politics, and his fierce defense of our democracy led the American Bar Association to ask him to chair their task force on American democracy alongside Jeh Johnson, who will himself do a Crossing Divides event later this spring,” said Gerken. “It does not surprise me in the least that the ABA has chosen to entrust our democracy’s future to Judge Luttig, and I can imagine no greater sign of respect.”    

a crowded room for the event with Judge J. Michael Luttig
At the event, Dean Gerken and Judge Luttig discussed the importance of working across ideological lines to uphold the rule of law.

During their conversation, Dean Gerken and Judge Luttig discussed the importance of working across ideological lines to uphold the rule of law. They also discussed the events of Jan. 6, 2021, which led Luttig to testify before the U.S. House Select Committee about the importance of “talking with each other, and listening to one another again, as human beings and fellow citizens who share the same destiny and the same belief in American and hope for her future.”

Judge Luttig praised Yale Law School for its commitment to bridging difference through the Crossing Divides Program.

You are now beginning to do exactly what I believe, [what] I know, is required to save our democracy, to return reverence for the Constitution and the rule of law. Today we’re at the very brink of losing all three,” Luttig said.

Launched in October 2023, the Crossing Divides Program, an initiative of The Tsai Leadership Program at Yale Law School, offers a formal speaker series that brings together high-profile leaders from opposite sides of major national debates to discuss how to bridge differences and work to understand each other. The program also includes co-teaching opportunities for courses and support for student-led initiatives.

Judge Luttig speaking to YLS students
Judge J. Michael Luttig spoke with Yale Law School students after the event.

The program was enabled through a gift of Ronnie F. Heyman ’72, a longtime friend and donor to Yale University and Yale Law School.

In March, the Crossing Divides Program will sponsor an event co-hosted by the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society at Yale featuring Chief Judge James E. Boasberg ’90 and Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ’92 and their clerks in a conversation on “Collegiality at the Courthouse.” Other upcoming events this semester include a conversation between Judge Thomas B. Griffith and Secretary Jeh Johnson on the ABA Task Force for American Democracy’s work; a conversation between Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan and Judge Amul Thapar; a panel discussion on the Israel-Hamas war; and a Yale Law faculty panel.

Please visit the Leadership Program events page for more information on upcoming Crossing Divides events as they are announced.