President Bush knew what he was getting in 2001 when he made Reggie B. Walton one of his first picks for a seat on the federal bench: a tough-on-crime judge with a reputation for handing down stiff sentences.
A former deputy drug adviser, federal prosecutor and Superior Court judge, Walton seemed a perfect fit for the new president. And Walton didn’t disappoint, proving to be exactly the kind of no-nonsense judge Bush was looking for.
When erasing former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case, Bush said Walton was being too harsh.
“The point here is to do what is consistent with the dictates of justice,” said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Walton, the son of a steel worker who turned a hardscrabble upbringing into a legal career, declined Tuesday to discuss the case or his views on sentencing.
“To now say anything about sentencing on the heels of yesterday’s events will inevitably be construed as comments on the president’s commutation decision, which would be inappropriate,” the judge said in an e-mail.
But attorneys noted some irony in Bush’s decision to override Walton.
“The party who appointed him is now unhappy with what he appointed him to do,” said Scott L. Fredericksen, a defense attorney who served as a prosecutor under every president since Ronald Reagan.
Also noteworthy, defense attorneys said, was seeing the White House urge leniency just weeks after the Bush administration announced a tough new crime bill that would bar judges from going easy on criminals. They would be free to impose longer sentences, but not shorter ones.