Legal Experts Call Bork Able, Articulate Conservative
Jul. 01, 1987
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A law school professor said Wednesday it would be ''scandalous'' to delay Robert Bork's elevation to the Supreme Court, while a former Watergate prosecutor called it ''an unfortunate historical irony'' that the man who fired Archibald Cox would be named to the nation's highest court.
''It's a very distinguished, brilliant nomination,'' said Paul M. Bator, a professor of law at the University of Chicago and the Justice Department's deputy solicitor general earlier in the Reagan administration.
''If confirmation were resisted, I would regard that as scandalous, like resistance to Brandeis'' he said.
Louis D. Brandeis, who was influential in the passage of antitrust laws and other measures to curb the power of big business, was nominated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, survived a four-month confirmation battle and was confirmed by Senate Democrats in a strict party-line vote. The first Jewish person to serve on the high court, his nomination was opposed by anti-Semites and corporate interests.
Bator said that Bork would be ''a voice for a more restrained reading of the Constitution in the sense of fidelity to its text and to its structure.''
Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, said the notion that the Senate should vote on a nominee's qualifications, not his views, is ''a fundamental misconception.''
''Senators who do not share the Reagan administration's views on privacy, free speech, church and state and affirmative action ought to reflect that view in their role of advice and consent,'' said Tribe. ''I don't see the Senate as treating the president as though he has the right'' to determine the ''the kind of court he would like to have into the 21st century.''
Former Watergate prosecutor Henry Ruth said that as a lawyer and a judge Bork is ''certainly as qualified as anyone who has been put in the job.''
''But speaking historically and institutionally, it strikes me as an unfortunate historical irony that the person who fired Archibald Cox winds up on the Supreme Court,'' added Ruth. Ruth, now a lawyer in Philadelphia, served as deputy to Cox and his successor Leon Jaworski, before himself becoming Watergate prosecutor.
Bork's behavior in the Saturday Night Massacre ''was admirable,'' said Guido Calabresi, dean of the Yale University law school and a close friend of Bork's. ''I think that he gave up the opportunity to be an immediate hero.''
Calabresi said that Bork saw to it that a successor to Cox was appointed. If Bork had resigned, someone further down the line at the Justice Department might have ''done what President Nixon wanted and the investigation would have ended,'' he said.
Although he personally would not have nominated Bork to the Supreme Court because their philosophies differ, Calabresi praised Bork's abilities.
''Bob Bork of all the conservative law scholars around is a person who I think is most distinguished,'' Calabresi said. ''He is a person of enormous ability and integrity and great humor.''
Terry Eastland, a spokesman for Attorney General Edwin Meese, said that Bork in the late 1970s ''more or less assumed the ... mantle'' of legal scholar Alexander Bickel as ''the leading critic of the Warren Court.''
Eastland said that Bork has ''continued to develop a jurisprudential approach that staked itself to the proposition that the only legitimate basis for constitutional interpretation is that which is grounded in the text and intention of the Framers.''
At a press briefing on the Bork nomination, the department handed out 120 pages of opinions, speeches and background material on the nominee.
''I think one would be hard-pressed to find an individual who has thought more and articulated in a better fashion the approach to jurisprudence that has been espoused in this administration,'' Eastland said.