Some lawyers can be so circumspect in speech and so careful in action that they’re just plain boring. Such caution might help you make it to the Supreme Court someday, but it’s not a recipe for a very fun life.
Thankfully, not all brilliant lawyers are afraid of speaking their minds. Take Robert Bork, the former U.S. Solicitor General and D.C. Circuit judge whose Supreme Court nomination famously went down in flames in 1987 — due in part to his loquaciousness during his confirmation hearings.
Judge Bork, now 84, is currently a fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank. He’s not as involved in public life as he once was, but he’s not completely out of the picture. For example, he’s serving as a legal adviser to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney (a development that some on the left have criticized).
And Judge Bork continues to make controversial pronouncements, most recently in an interview with Newsweek….
The interview, conducted by Lloyd Grove, begins with a matter of utmost importance: Judge Bork’s facial hair. Or rather, the current lack thereof:
He no longer wears the trademark beard, which gave him the look of a Viennese pedant (and inspired the appearance of Judge Roy Snyder on the animated sitcom The Simpsons).
“When I first grew it, it was full and red,” Bork says, “and gradually over time it became sparse and white. So I figured the time had come to get rid of it.”
Judge Bork’s beard, which Democrat opponents called “scary” when opposing him, didn’t help his confirmation chances. His SCOTUS nomination was voted down, 58-42, and the seat in question ultimately went to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — regarded as squishy by many right-wingers. Some conservatives wonder: Could a shave in time have saved nine?
So, why does Judge Bork support Romney?
“I get an impression, a very strong impression, of competence,” Bork told Newsweek. “In addition to his undoubted skills as a businessman and a governor, Mr. Romney stands out as a leader.”
Barack Obama, not so much:
As for [Judge Bork’s] initial attraction to the former governor of Massachusetts, “The first thing that grabbed me about him is, he’s not Obama.”
Bork’s objection to President Obama?
“Aside from wrecking the economy and giving away a lot on foreign policy, I haven’t got any objections,” he retorts.
“They are going to be activist justices. I’d be more concerned if the other sitting justices were older. But they — the justices with whom I agree — are young enough to last into the administration that follows Obama. So it’s going to be more of the same. But that’s fine, because more of the same isn’t worse.”
Speaking of grumpy old men, check out Judge Bork’s views on contraception:
I ask Bork if he still disagrees with the high court’s Griswold v. Connecticut ruling that married couples have a constitutional right to the use of contraception?
“Oh, my God, yes!”
How about the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment? Does he still think it shouldn’t apply to women?
“Yeah,” he answers. “I think I feel justified by the fact ever since then, the Equal Protection Clause kept expanding in ways that cannot be justified historically, grammatically, or any other way. Women are a majority of the population now—a majority in university classrooms and a majority in all kinds of contexts. It seems to me silly to say, ‘Gee, they’re discriminated against and we need to do something about it.’ They aren’t discriminated against anymore.”
And in Supreme Court nominations as well? Judge Bork, whom I named to a fantasy conservative Supreme Court last year, still bears grudges over his failed real-world SCOTUS nomination:
Even before the confirmation hearings, Ted Kennedy went on the Senate floor to describe “Robert Bork’s America” as “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, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government,” and so on and so forth.
I ask Bork if he ever forgave the late Kennedy.
“I’m trying to think of how I could conceivably do that,” says Bork, a convert to Catholicism. “We’re supposed to forgive all kinds of behavior. I shouldn’t deny that I’ve forgiven somebody, or I’ll end up being assigned to the outer circles of Hell. But Ted Kennedy is a test case of the limits of forgiveness.
How about Joe Biden, who chaired his Senate hearing?
“Oh, poor Biden,” Bork says with mock sympathy. “Biden, I think, is not a very thoughtful or intelligent man.”
That’s a bit harsh, Judge Bork. Personally speaking, I happen to think Vice-President Biden is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. Wouldn’t you agree?
Robert Bork’s Romney Connection [Newsweek / Daily Beast]
Robert Bork Has Good News for All the Ladies [New York Magazine]
Daily Deadline: Romney’s Blast from the Past [New Republic]
Romney Legal Advisor Robert Bork: Women ‘Aren’t Discriminated Against Anymore’ [ThinkProgress Justice]
Romney Advisor Robert Bork: Civil Rights Act Is ‘Unsurpassed Ugliness,’ But Contraception And Porn Bans Are Fine [ThinkProgress Justice]
Earlier: The Unconfirmable Supreme Court (Part 2): The Conservatives
Discriminating Against Conservatives in Law Firm Hiring: Is It Wrong?
Liberal Bias in Legal Education: Does it Exist? Does it Matter? An ATL Debate