Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations

By Norman Vieira; Leonard Gross | Go to book overview
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6
THE ULTIMATE STAKES: CONTROLLING THE DIRECTION OF THE COURT

The struggle over the Bork nomination was intense, in large part, because it came to be viewed as a critical battleground in the cultural and legal war between liberals and conservatives. For years, conservatives had been frustrated by the Supreme Court's role in implementing social policies that had not been approved by elected officials. Mandatory bussing, abortion rights, and the ban on school prayer were among the hotbutton social issues that had frustrated conservatives for more than a decade. In 1980, Ronald Reagan promised a social and economic revolution. Because Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress throughout his tenure, President Reagan had to use his executive powers to implement some parts of his social agenda. One way to bring about significant change was through judicial appointments, and as discussed earlier, Reagan and Ed Meese did all they could to select judges who would uphold the decisions of duly elected representatives.

For Robert Bork, judicial restraint and respect for majoritarian rule were paramount values. Bork believed that these values would be advanced if only judges did not try to enforce their own personal predilections in the guise of determining what was constitutionally obligatory. For him, the only legitimate method of judging was by adhering to original intent -- whether that of the drafters of legislation or that of the Framers of the Constitution. In a speech on March 31, 1987, Bork explained:

[T]he judge is required to seek and apply the intentions of the founders. The reason is that a judge has no legitimate power to set at

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