Political Notebook

Bork says Kagan is not fit to serve on high court

FORMER NOMINEE SPEAKS UP Robert Bork said Elena Kagan’s admiration for the former president of Israel’s Supreme Court disqualifies her. FORMER NOMINEE SPEAKS UP
Robert Bork said Elena Kagan’s admiration for the former president of Israel’s Supreme Court disqualifies her.
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
Associated Press / June 24, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Conservative critics of Elena Kagan recruited failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork to brand her unfit to serve on the high court yesterday, as former colleagues from both ends of the ideological spectrum praised her qualifications to be a justice.

Opponents and supporters of President Obama’s choice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens stepped up their efforts with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Kagan’s confirmation just days away.

Bork said Kagan’s admiration for the liberal former president of Israel’s Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, disqualifies her to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Barak “may be the worst judge on the planet — the most activist,’’ said Bork, the conservative former judge whose 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan was rejected by the Senate after a partisan battle.

“If people understood that an American Supreme Court nominee was going to follow the example of Barak, there would be grave misgivings and probably a refusal to confirm,’’ Bork said.

Barak is acknowledged by critics and admirers as an influential jurist who took an activist approach to judging. He once declared a series of human rights laws enacted by Israel’s legislature to be the country’s constitution, and said it was up to the court to review future measures to ensure they complied.

He drew praise from Kagan in 2006, who at an award ceremony honoring him called Barak “my judicial hero,’’ and said he was the judge “in my lifetime whom I think best represents and has best advanced the values of democracy and human rights, of the rule of law and of justice.’’

Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s conservative icon, also spoke glowingly of Barak during a 2007 ceremony at the Supreme Court, although he acknowledged deep legal and philosophical differences with him.

Bork spoke during a conference call organized by the antiabortion rights group Americans United for Life, which has ardently opposed Kagan.

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the chairman of the Judiciary panel, dismissed Bork’s criticism as a distraction.

“We see a lot of people putting up red herrings and grasping at straws’’ to try to defeat Kagan, Leahy said, predicting that Kagan would be confirmed.

“Here’s a woman who understands the Constitution, understands the law, understands the effects of the decisions on ordinary, hard-working Americans,’’ Leahy said.

He and fellow Democrats portrayed Kagan as a counterweight to what they called an activist conservative majority currently dominating the court.

Republicans, increasingly under pressure from conservative interest groups to try to block Kagan, continued to raise concerns about her ability to be an impartial justice.

“The more we learn about Ms. Kagan’s work as a political adviser and political operative, the more questions arise about her ability to make the necessary transition from politics to neutral arbiter,’’ said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

Antiabortion activist Randall Terry announced plans to protest this morning outside the offices of McConnell and number two Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona “to draw attention to the cowardice and treachery of Senate Republicans’’ regarding Kagan’s nomination.

Ore. woman says Gore tried to have sex with her
PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland massage therapist accused former Vice President Al Gore of “unwanted sexual contact’’ at a hotel during an October 2006 visit, but no charges were filed due to lack of evidence, law officials said yesterday.

An attorney representing the woman contacted police in late 2006, said Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk. The prosecutor said the woman — who has not been identified — refused to be interviewed by detectives and did not want the investigation to proceed.

The woman, however, contacted police in January 2009 and gave a statement, saying Gore tried to have sex with her during an appointment at the upscale downtown Hotel Lucia, where Gore was reportedly registered as “Mr. Stone.’’

The National Enquirer first reported the allegations yesterday.

Gore family spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said the former vice president had no comment. Gore and his wife announced June 1 they were separating.

A police report prepared in 2007 said the alleged incident occurred Oct. 24, 2006. Gore was in Portland to deliver a speech.

The woman, according to the report, canceled appointments with detectives on Dec. 21 and 26 that year. Her attorney canceled another meeting and said the matter would be handled civilly.

The case was reopened in January 2009. Detectives interviewed the woman but determined there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations, Portland police said.

“I did not immediately call the police as I feared being made into a public spectacle and my reputation being destroyed,’’ she said in a transcript of the police interview. A police spokeswoman said the woman contacted detectives this month and asked for a copy of her statement. The woman, the spokeswoman said, planned to take her case to the media. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS