Lawyers debate Bork confirmation

By Alan Marcus

Two Chicago-area lawyers with opposing views on the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork squared off yesterday during a debate at the NIU College of Law.

John Curry Jr., a partner with the Oak Brook firm of Fawell & Peterson, spoke in favor of Bork’s confirmation and said, “The record has shown that Judge Bork is a principled jurist of integrity, sophistication, honesty and candor.”

Shaun M. Collins, a trial lawyer at the Chicago firm of Mayer, Brown & Platt, said he opposes Bork’s confirmation because “his decisions and writings, when taken as a whole, indicate that he is outside the mainstream” of American legal philosophy.

Collins, co-founder of Lawyers for the Judiciary, an ad hoc organization formed in response to the Bork nomination, said his group has received support from around 750 Illinois lawyers.

“When you get 750 lawyers to agree on anything, it is a momentous occasion, and the fact that 750 lawyers are opposed to Judge Bork’s confirmation serves as a barometer of how much opposition there is to him in the legal community,” Collins said.

Collins, who was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this Tuesday, also said the debate over Bork’s confirmation will have far-reaching implications for American society.

“This debate is not really over one man, or even one seat on the Supreme Court. The real question concerns what kind of nation we want to be in terms of how we define our personal liberties and other social interests,” he said.

Peterson said, “The issue now presented to the United States Senate is whether it tolerates or approves of Judge Bork’s philosophical approach to judging.”

e also said Bork’s record indicates he is “a faithful adherent to the classical view of the Constitution, to judicial restraint (a philosophy which emphasizes deference to legislative bodies and argues judges should not decide cases by injecting their biases into the controversy), the fundamental legal principles fueling our democracy, republican government, majoritarian policy making and the principles of liberty.”

Collins said Bork’s record over the past 25 years is quite different from the one he has presented at his confirmation hearings. “We are seeing two different Robert Borks and the question is which one are we getting.

“Judge Bork has taken some very extreme positions on constitutional law in the past, such as opposing every advance which has been made in Civil Rights law over the past 25 years. He has recently backed off some of these positions, but this raises an issue about his credibility.”

Collins also said he is disturbed by Bork’s statements concerning the right of privacy. “He has argued the privacy cases, such as Griswold vs. Connecticut (the Supreme Court case which invalidated a statute which prohibited spreading information concerning artificial contraceptives), were wrongly decided because he cannot find a right to privacy in the Constitution.

“What bothers me about this is that Judge Bork has not begun to look for a source for the right of privacy, even though he has said he will be receptive to arguments as to where such a right can be found.”

Peterson said Bork “is a libertarian justice in the finest sense of our tradition,” and argued any criticisms of his record “are baseless and false.”