December 19, 2012

Passing of a Giant, Robert Bork

Statement of Committee for Justice President Curt Levey on the passing of Judge Robert H. Bork:
The nation has lost an intellectual and moral giant with the passing of Judge Robert Bork this morning.
His passing sadly reminds us of how much we lost in 1987 when, upon Judge Bork’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, the political opportunism and shameful behavior of a number of senators blocked his confirmation. “Borking” was introduced to the English language as a term for unleashing the politics of personal destruction on an otherwise qualified nominee.
The integrity of judicial confirmations and, indeed, the very spirit of politics in Washington have suffered as a result of what was done to Judge Bork.  Even many liberal observers concede that the politicized confirmation process and content-free confirmation hearings so bemoaned today are rooted in Judge Bork’s defeat.  Today’s vacuous confirmation hearings make Judge Bork’s honest and highly substantive testimony in 1987 before a hostile Senate Judiciary Committee – headed by Sen. Joe Biden – seem even more courageous than it did 25 years ago.
Judge Bork’s tremendous courage and integrity, along with his towering intellect, would have ensured his place as one of the great U.S. Supreme Court Justices. But that would only have capped off what otherwise stands as one of the great legal careers in American history, encompassing both his scholarly work as a Yale Law School professor and the author of several legal books and his service to his country as Solicitor General of the United States and a D.C. Circuit judge.
However, Judge Bork’s greatest contribution to the law cannot be found in any one position he held.  Instead, he will long be remembered for transforming American law through his intellectual and moral leadership in the battle against the standard-less “living Constitution” approach to American jurisprudence that had become so fashionable in the middle of the twentieth century.
Judge Bork was a hero and inspiration to those of us who will continue the battle against judicial activism, in which judges “arrive at results by announcing principles that were never contemplated by those who wrote and voted for the law,” said Bork. Though we mourn his loss, we are grateful for his life and his contribution to the law, which will live on beyond the years of the younger lawyers and scholars he inspired.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Judge Bork’s family.