Bickel and Bork beyond the Academy

Roger Pilon, "Online Alexander Bickel Symposium," SCOTUSblog (August 16, 2012).


A spirited debate over judicial review was unfolding in the legal academy when Alexander Bickel’s The Least Dangerous Branch appeared in 1962. Often abstract, arid, and abstruse, the cottage industry that followed will likely be the focus of others in this symposium, coming as they do from that world. I’ve had the good fortune to spend the better part of my career beyond those ivied walls where, as Judge Robert Bork and Justice Antonin Scalia have said, few have had the time or inclination to follow such arguments. Yet Bickel’s thesis, at least, did have real world consequences – through the offices of his close Yale Law School friend and colleague, Judge Bork, who has written that Bickel taught him “more than anyone else” about the Constitution. Because I’ve been intimately involved in that outside debate, that will be my focus here.