Judge Robert H. Bork, among the great legal thinkers of our time, has died.
For decades now, Judge Bork has, in my mind, represented the quintessential case of a good and brilliant man savaged and ultimately defeated by people unworthy to be in the same room with him. His rejection as Ronald Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States was a massive loss for the country, as well as a flagrant injustice and an outrage. His being grilled, demagogued, and ridiculed by the likes of Teddy Kennedy and Joe Biden — plagiarists, preening ideological blowhards, and law-school mediocrities — was one of the most shameful spectacles I’ve ever seen. (See this.) It constitutes just one of the many reasons why I hold Joe Biden in contempt.
Within hours of Judge Bork’s nomination, the execrable Senator Kennedy (D-Chappaquiddick) delivered a speech in which he announced that “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.”
Only a few months after the end of his failed nomination, Judge Bork spoke to a closed meeting of faculty and students at BYU’s law school. I don’t believe that it was publicly announced, but, thanks to a friend’s invitation, I was able to attend. I still recall a student who asked him what it was like to be raked over the coals by two C-grade law students, Senators Kennedy and Biden, who had probably barely comprehended the legal textbooks they had studied, and which he had written. “Well,” he answered very slowly. “How can I put this kindly? Let’s just say that I never felt intellectually intimidated.”
A former student’s tribute can be found here, and Senator Orrin Hatch’s remarks on the floor of the United States Senate can be read here. A very fine video tribute, done several months ago, is here. It’s twelve minutes long, but very much worth watching.
RIP, Judge Bork. You deserved much better. And so did we.
Posted from Orlando, Florida.