Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert Bork, fully Robert Heron Bork

American Judge, Supreme Court Nominee, Legal Scholar, Professor of Law at Yale University, Author

"When Americans are morally divided, it is appropriate that our laws reflect that fact... Our popular institutions, the legislative and executive branches, were structured to provide safety to achieve compromise when we are divided, to slow change, to dilute absolutisms... They are designed, in short, to do the very things that abstract generalizations about moral principles and the just society tend to bring into contempt."

"In the past few decades American institutions have struggled with the temptations of politics. Professions and academic disciplines that once possessed a life and structure of their own have steadily succumbed, in some cases almost entirely, to the belief that nothing matters beyond politically desirable results, however achieved."

"[Law is] vulnerable to the winds of intellectual or moral fashion, which it then validates as the commands of our most basic concept."

"A constitutional right . . . and once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it."

"A society deadened by a smothering network of laws while finding release in moral chaos is not likely to be either happy or stable."

"An egalitarian educational system is necessarily opposed to meritocracy and reward for achievement. It is inevitably opposed to procedures that might reveal differing levels of achievement."

"Americans revere both the Constitution and an independent Court that applies the document's provisions. The Court has done many excellent things in our history, and few people are willing to see its power broken. The difficulty with all proposals to respond to the Court when it behaves unconstitutionally is that they would create a power to destroy the Court's essential work as well."

"As government regulations grow slowly, we become used to the harness. Habit is a powerful force, and we no longer feel as intensely as we once would have [the] constriction of our liberties that would have been utterly intolerable a mere half century ago."

"As I understand it, you can get marijuana whether or not you're really sick at all, ... Whether or not it really helps with pain or illness, effectively it's the legalization of marijuana."

"Be indifferent, if not actively hostile, to conservative values."

"Being 'at the mercy of legislative majorities' is merely another way of describing the basic American plan: representative democracy."

"By depriving the charged person of any defenses [the rulings] mean that sexual dalliance, however voluntarily engaged in, becomes harassment whenever an employee sees fit, after the fact, so to characterize it."

"Confirm a nominee with no visible judicial philosophy who lacks the basic skills of persuasive argument and clear writing."

"Consumers will benefit from multiple sources of innovation."

"Everybody else I've talked to ranges between disapproval and outrage."

"How did Taney know that slave ownership was a constitutional right? Such a right is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. He knew it because he was passionately convinced that it must be a constitutional right."

"I don't know if [the Democrats] can pull a filibuster on a Supreme Court nominee. That would be very unpopular, I think, with the American people. I think they would be in trouble."

"I don't think the Constitution is studied almost anywhere, including law schools. In law schools, what they study is what the court said about the Constitution. They study the opinions. They don't study the Constitution itself."

"I was thinking of resigning since I did not want to be perceived as a man who did the president's bidding to save my job. I have had some time to think about it since. I think I did the right thing."

"If the children already born each have only two children themselves ... in twenty-seven to thirty-five years the population of the world will double."

"If we recognize reward according to race, ethnicity, and sex as aspects or analogues of the blood principle, it is obvious how far the achievement principle has been discarded in America today in the name of equality."

"If you know anything about bar association politics, it is not constitutional scholars who become president of the bar association. She has very little, if any, acquaintanceship with constitutional law, and it's a very hard thing to get a hold of if you go into the court and start wrestling with it. In fact, you're likely to get it very wrong."

"In a constitutional democracy the moral content of law must be given by the morality of the framer or legislator, never by the morality of the judge."

"It's a demoralization of the conservative legal establishment, which is told in effect, 'If you're productive, if you stand up out there, you are not going to be chosen.'"

"It's a little late to develop a constitutional philosophy or begin to work it out when you're on the court already."

"Law is vulnerable to the winds of intellectual or moral fashion, which it then validates as the commands of our most basic concept."

"Modernity, the child of the Enlightenment, failed when it became apparent that the good society cannot be achieved by unaided reason."

"No church that panders to the zeitgeist deserves respect, and very shortly it will not get respect, except from those who find it politically useful, and that is less respect than disguised contempt."

"Now, however, the educational system has become the weapon of choice for modern liberals in their project of dismantling American culture."

"Once the justices depart, as most of them have, from the original understanding of the principles of the Constitution, they lack any guidance other than their own attempts at moral philosophy, a task for which they have not even minimal skills. Yet when it rules in the name of the Constitution, whether it rules truly or not, the Court is the most powerful branch of government in domestic policy. The combination of absolute power, disdain for the historic Constitution, and philosophical incompetence is lethal."

"Senators now demand that nominees state positions."

"The conventional wisdom right now is that John Roberts will be confirmed just as the conventional wisdom in 1987 going into the hearings was that Robert Bork would be confirmed.... You never know what's going to happen at a hearing. I think that's been demonstrated time and again."

"The First Amendment is about how we govern ourselves - not about how we titillate ourselves sexually."

"The major obstacle to a religious renewal is the intellectual classes, who are highly influential and tend to view religion as primitive superstition. They believe that science has left atheism as the only respectable intellectual stance."

"The notion that Congress can change the meaning given a constitutional provision by the Court is subversive of the function of judicial review; and it is not the less so because the Court promises to allow it only when the Constitution is moved to the left."

"The opposition reflected the polarization that existed in this country."

"The purpose that brought the fourteenth amendment into being was equality before the law, and equality, not separation, was written into the law."

"The right to procreate is not guaranteed, explicitly or implicitly, by the Constitution."

"This begins to demystify the presidency, and I'm not sure that's all bad."

"Those who made and endorsed our Constitution knew man's nature, and it is to their ideas, rather than to the temptations of utopia, that we must ask that our judges adhere."

"When a judge assumes the power to decide which distinctions made in a statute are legitimate and which are not, he assumes the power to disapprove of any and all legislation, because all legislation makes distinctions."

"Without adherence to the original understanding, even the actual Bill of Rights could be pared or eliminated. It is asserted nonetheless, and sometimes on high authority, that the judicial philosophy of original understanding is fatally defective in any number of respects."