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Thursday, Dec 20 2012 11:00 PM

'Justice Bork' and our national bereavement

By The Bakersfield Californian

Robert Bork, the conservative judge and scholar who died Wednesday, is best known today as the last Supreme Court nominee to have been rejected in confirmation hearings by the U.S. Senate. Senate Democrats feared, with good reason, that the 1987 Reagan nominee would be a vote against abortion rights and the ability of government to impose, for example, civil rights restrictions on private business.

In retirement, Bork wrote books with such titles as "Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline" (2003) and "A Country I Do Not Recognize: The Legal Assault on American Values" (2005).

His contributions to conservative legal philosophy live on in jurists such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- particularly his view that modern-day interpretations of the Constitution should be based strictly on the "original intent" of the authors.

It is ironic that Bork died amid a period of national bereavement and renewed debate over gun laws. Instructive, too -- and, probably for some, baffling -- because, as he stated in 1989, Bork believed that the Second Amendment works "to guarantee the right of states to form militias, not for individuals to bear arms." How, then, might a Justice Bork have ruled in 2008's Heller v. District of Columbia? We can't say with certainty, of course, but we can observe that the passage of time did not turn Bork into any kind of liberal; rather, it pushed conservative America in a decidedly rightward direction. We've changed.

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