Robert Heron Bork - Judge, Lawyer, Legal Scholar, Educator

By Goode, Stephen | Insight on the News, July 28, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Robert Heron Bork - Judge, Lawyer, Legal Scholar, Educator


Goode, Stephen, Insight on the News


Perhaps no distinguished jurist in American history has endured more vicious political attack than Bark suffered at the hands of liberals determined to block his nomination to the Supreme Court.

Personal Bio

Bork, a Marine in two wars, was seen by liberals as too tough for the high court.

Born: March 1, 1927, Pittsburgh.

Family: Married Claire Davidson; she died, 1980. Children: Robert, Charles and Ellen. Married Mary and Ellen Pohl, 1982. One granddaughter.

Education: University of Chicago, bachelor's degree, 1948; law degree, 1953.

Career: Active duty, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 1945-46 and 1950-52; private law practice, Chicago; professor, Yale Law School; U.S. solicitor general; acting attorney general; circuit judge, US. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Books: The Antitrust Paradox, 1978; The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law, 1990; Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, 1996.

For Relaxation: "I read and talk to friends. I like to read mystery stories, most of them unfortunately of the last generation: Dorothy Sayers. John Dickson Carr."

Robert Bork is the John M. Olin Scholar in Legal Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of last year's bestselling Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, a detailed and devastating look at contemporary American culture. His nomination to the Supreme Court by President Reagan in 1987 was scuttled in some of the nastiest Senate confirmation hearings in US. history. "I regarded them as a travesty then and I regard them as a travesty now," Bork tells Insight

A perceptive, ironic and sometimes acerbic social critic, Judge Bork responds candidly to questions from Insight about the state of life in America. Is it possible to say "no " to anything in our culture any more? His answer: "I don't know. Its crucial, if we can." Would he send his granddaughter to public schools? "No. Nobody would. Bill Clinton didn't want his daughter to go to public schools. They teach kids in [public] school about all sorts of sex and they even have them sitting in class learning to fit condoms on cucumbers." And what about American values in those schools? "I don't know where they are, but they're not currently on inspection."

Insight: Do you see any signs of common sense in the judiciary these days?

Robert H. Bork: As you might guess, the people I think are good judges are [Supreme Court Justices Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas but I don't think there's much beyond that.

This is a different Supreme Court than the [Earl] Warren court. The Warren court politicized everything: antitrust cases; tax cases; everything. This court doesn't do that. You go up there on a tax case or an antitrust case or something of that sort, you get a square deal, and you get a good lawyerly response to what you're arguing. It's only when they come to the major cultural issues that they suddenly move left, as they did in the VMI [Virginia Military Institute] case, and the case about homosexuals out of Colorado.

Insight: What legal minds do you respect from the past?

RHB: There is Chief Justice [William Howard] Taft, but he is not in keeping with the modern adventurousness of the courts. He has his defects. One of them is he wrote enormously long opinions sometimes. But often when he faced a Constitutional question, he did a very thorough analysis of the history surrounding the constitutional provision in question, which is a lot better than people who just deal in abstractions.

It's hard to talk about justices on the court in these terms because they write opinions and those opinions come up in random order. You get somebody like William Brennan, who I think was very intelligent and wrote important opinions, but not from the point of view I think a judge should.

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