Sunday, May 16, 2010

Notes on Staffing the Supremes

Twenty-three years ago President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to replace Justice Lewis Powell on the Supreme Court, and times have not been the same since.

Bork was an avowed strict constructionist who apparently couldn’t keep his mouth shut about his views. So much so that it became clear to anyone who had ears that he would decide to overturn Roe v. Wade at his first opportunity. Roe v. Wade had been the law of the land for sixteen years – then, as now, not an undue long period of time.

During the confirmation hearing it was also learned that Bork favored poll taxes if they were “very small” and that he couldn’t in his reading of the constitution, see in it anywhere a guarantee of a person’s right to privacy.

Clearly, Bork wouldn’t do, and clearly Bork was his own worst enemy at his confirmation hearing. One could argue that he was so far gone in his views that he was unable to see how someone holding different viewpoints might be horrified that he could become a Supreme Court justice.

And so ever since Robert Bork was turned away in the Senate by a vote of 58 to 42 Supreme Court nominees have kept mum about their views and about how they might rule in this case or that one.

Rendering the whole Senate Supreme Court confirmation process a sham.

But the Bork nomination is not without its ironies. As mentioned above, Robert Bork was unaware that the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights weighed in one way or the other on whether an individual had a right to privacy. But feature this: in their zeal to dig up anything and everything they could to cook Bork’s nomination, someone, probably a young staffer, went to Bork’s video tape rental store and got a list of the videos he had rented. The results were disappointing, however, and only revealed that Bork was as boring in private as he was contentious in public.

The irony is that Bork’s privacy was so violated in their zeal to defame him that this prompted passage of the VPPA or Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 which places a fine of $2500 on any video tape service provider who discloses rental information of an individual. (Never mind that others working in the Beltway might be revealed in a similar disclosure as being less boring in their selection of videos.)

I guess they could have called it the Bork Bill, but my guess is that it probably wouldn’t have passed if they did.

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