West façade of the Supreme Court Building. (Franz Jantzen)
The news comes that Robert Bork, a legal scholar best known for being denied a seat on the Supreme Court, has died at 85.
Reading the NY Times obit reminded me again of how loathsome his legal views were. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying it was unconstitutional, but thought poll taxes were legal. Bork disliked the public accommodation requirements of the Civil Rights Act, as an unwarranted government intrusion on freedom. Okay, whites are free not to admit blacks into public accommodations, such as hotels and stores, but blacks don't get the freedom to use those hotels and stores, just to spell out what Bork supported.
He started out as a New Deal supporter, then became a libertarian, then became the kind of conservative who thinks Griswold v. Connecticut was an incorrect decision. That was the Supreme Court decision that keeps the state from prohibiting married couples from purchasing birth control.
Bork very likely first became known to the general public during the so-called Saturday night massacre. First, Elliott Richardson, the Attorney General, refused President Richard M. Nixon's order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, resigning instead. Richardson's deputy did the same. Bork, third in line at Justice, pulled the trigger, firing Cox.
Read the Times obit and Jeffrey Toobin's brief column in The New Yorker, then be thankful that this man never served on the Supreme Court.