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Conservative solicitor general Robert H. Bork dies

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 19th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Robert H. Bork had a long and illustrious career in American politics. A former solicitor general, federal judge and staunch conservative, his actions added a new phrase to the U.S. political lexicon - "Borked." He has passed away from complications due to heart disease; he was 85.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - His son, Robert H. Bork confirmed his father's passing in Arlington, Virginia.

Bork was senior judicial adviser this year to the presidential campaign of Governor Mitt Romney. He also played a small but crucial role in the Watergate crisis as the solicitor general under President Richard M. Nixon.

Bork carried out orders to fire a special prosecutor in what became known as "the Saturday Night Massacre." Judge Bork is best known as a conservative in the nation's cultural wars.

Judge Bork's defeat as a Supreme Court nominee, in spite of a presidential nomination was largely believed to be due to his perceived judicial philosophy and temperament. Thus, the term "borked" came to describe a nominee rejected for what supporters consider political motives.

The success of the anti-Bork campaign is thought to have shifted the tone of Supreme Court nominations since then, giving them an often strong political cast and making it difficult for a nominee with firmly held views ever to get confirmed.
Judge Bork, then 60 years of age, was sitting on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit when President Ronald Reagan announced on July 1, 1987, that he was nominating him to the high court to replace Lewis Powell. Within an hour of the announcement, Senator Edward M. Kennedy set the tone for with a scathing speech.

"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is - and is often the only - protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy."

Judge Bork argued his whole life long that American judges, acting to please liberal elite, have hijacked the struggle over national values by overstepping their role, especially in many of the most important decisions on civil rights and liberties, personal autonomy and regulation of business.

Bork advocated a view of judging known as "strict constructionism," or "originalism," as it seeks to limit constitutional values to those explicitly enunciated by the Framers and to reject those that evolved in later generations.

Bork rejected the view that the courts had rightly come to the aid of those neglected by the majority. He believed that majorities, through legislatures, should be empowered to make all decisions not specifically addressed in the Constitution.

His biggest political battle was when he took issue with the Supreme Court's assertion in the 1960s and '70s that the Constitution implicitly recognizes a right of privacy that bars states from outlawing abortion or the use of contraceptives by married couples.

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