High Court Nominations Were Always Political; Legitimate Role
Published: July 8, 1993
To the Editor:
“The Senate’s Power Grab” by Robert H. Bork (Op-Ed, June 23) fails to comprehend the “American understanding of the Supreme Court’s legitimate role in governing us.”
Strict constructionism of the Constitution cannot prove functional because it assumes three elements that are nonexistent: (1) words are inherently determinate; (2) a constant society, and (3) a unitary democracy.
First, words are inherently indeterminate. Engraved words are susceptible to more than one plausible meaning. One then searches to ascertain the intent of the framers as an appropriate authority. But what they meant presents a second problem.
It is absurd to determine a current legal issue in an evolved social context based on archaic original understandings. The strict constructionist response would be to amend the Constitution or pass legislation. But that is the third problem.
The minority can only be safeguarded by the judicial branch of our Government. The law must at times achieve justice, based not on votes, special interests or force, but on a sense of justice that reason and humanity dictate to an honorable court.
An exclusive commitment to interpretations of the original understanding of constitutional principles is unsound and myopic. Perhaps the Senate’s “power grab” contributes to the Supreme Court’s legitimate role in governing.
MICHAEL MANOUSSOS New York, June 25, 1993 The writer is a lawyer.