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Judges Testify to Life After Senate Rejection

October 08, 1987|GARY LIBMAN | Times Staff Writer

If Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork is beginning to feel that nobody likes him in Washington, he might take some comfort from the experiences of Judge Clement Haynsworth and former Judge John Parker.

Despite the trauma of an embarrassing negative Senate vote, Parker, whose Supreme Court nomination was blocked in 1930, and Haynsworth, passed over in 1969, went on to prove that there is life after rejection.

Painful Experience

The only other Supreme Court nominee turned down by the Senate in this century, former Judge G. Harrold Carswell in 1970, indicated in a brief telephone interview that he is still pained by the experience.

"It's a negative kind of thing. I've lived with it for 17 years and had 10,000 phone calls and I'm not going (to be part of an interview)," he said.

Speaking from the recently remodeled house on a small farm where he lives in virtual retirement outside Tallahassee, Fla., Carswell, 67, painted a foreboding picture of what will happen to current nominee Bork if the Senate--as now appears likely--rebuffs him.

'Bury the Man'

". . . When the liberal media racks up with (joins) the absolutely left wing media, there's nothing you can do about it," Carswell said. "I just say, 'Bury the man. He's dead.' " Then Carswell hung up.

However, by all accounts, Parker and Haynsworth went on to build highly respected judicial careers.

Haynsworth, 74, still sits on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which convenes in Baltimore and Richmond, Va. His work from the bench has been widely praised in recent years and some senators who voted against him in 1969, including former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.), have said they now wish they had supported him.

By all appearances, Parker, who died in 1958, never let the Senate rejection slow him down either.

He became active in the American Bar Assn. and helped modernize federal and state court systems, according to Duke University law and political science professor Peter Fish, who is writing a Parker biography. He also served as an alternate judge at the Nuremberg war trials, where he helped write opinions on conspiracy charges against the Nazi defendants.

Not that either man had an easy time rebounding from the Senate rejection.

Haynsworth, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Richard M. Nixon, was attacked in Senate hearings as anti-labor, called a "laundered segregationist" and accused of "ethical insensitivity" because he had ruled in some cases in which he was linked financially through stock holdings.

'A Traumatic Experience'

In an interview, Haynsworth recalled the hearings as "a very traumatic experience" and said the Senate's 55-45 vote against him was "quite a blow."

After the rejection, Haynsworth said he felt so hurt and uncertain of himself that he immediately took two weeks off to decide "whether my usefulness was so impaired that I should no longer stay on the (4th U.S. Circuit) Court of Appeals."

During the two weeks, two things occurred. He received "a flood of friendly letters from judges and lawyers all over the country urging me to stay." And, while he perused the supportive letters, he recalled the example of his good friend Judge Parker.

Haynsworth Was Welcomed

As a young lawyer, Haynsworth had appeared before Parker in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. When Haynsworth joined that court in 1957--27 years after Parker's Senate rejection--the older jurist welcomed him.

"Judge Parker was extremely nice to me when I was a young lawyer in his court. When I went on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court in 1957, he was still active," Haynsworth recalled this week in a telephone interview from Richmond.

"It was not until the next year that he died. My wife and I were with him at dinner in a Washington hotel when he had his heart attack. He literally died in the hospital the next day in my arms."

He was inspired, Haynsworth said, by Parker's rebound from his judicial defeat. "He went on to become a highly acclaimed and respected judge. I thought if he could do it, well, I certainly could try."

Haynsworth, who sits on the bench during one week every month and spends the rest of the time writing opinions in his hometown of Greenville, S.C., says the recent laudatory statements about his work and the positive remarks by Senators who voted against him in 1969 are a great comfort.

"It helps to indicate that the task I set for myself in 1969 I have accomplished reasonably well," he said last week, "and, of course, it makes me feel good."

What Might Have Been

Although he thinks occasionally about what might have happened had a few votes changed and he had been named to the Supreme Court, he does not spend a lot of time on what might have been.

"I haven't tried to torture myself with thoughts if this might have been done, it might have been different," he said. "Once the milk is spilt, I'd just as soon leave it spilt."

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