There is a disingenuous characteristic to Richard Cohen's article {"Judge Bork: Fancy Footwork," op-ed, July 31} that typifies most of the criticism aimed at the judge: it seeks to discredit his conclusions (often ineptly restated) while side stepping his arguments. This is done by labeling the judge's arguments an intellectual floor show and dismissing them without serious consideration. In the absence of the judge's reasoning, we are only left to ponder Mr. Cohen's (and Sen. Edward Kennedy's and Benjamin Hooks') alarmist predictions about setbacks to "civil rights gains."

For anyone who has read the judge's opinions, it is manifest that his philosophy is consistently applied against a broad range of constitutional questions, not merely those that excite NOW, the ACLU and the NAACP. Taken as a whole, they are hardly evidence of the post hoc rationalization of which Mr. Cohen accuses him. Judge Bork seeks to leave to the legislature what the Constitution leaves in the shadow. While we may wish that the Constitution addressed compelling issues of our time, the judge is honest enough to say when it does not. He builds for the legislatures (state and federal) a platform from which their constitutions can be amended and their statues adapted. This is clearly better than succumbing to inferences that cannot be fairly drawn from the Constitution.. FRANK INSERRA Washington

Richard Cohen, making an error common to the abortion rights controversy, states that "in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court peered into the Constitution and found a right to privacy and, therefore, a legal option to have an abortion."

As every law student knows, however, the court first explicitly recognized the right to privacy nine years earlier in Griswold v. Connecticut, which upheld the right of a married couple to obtain contraceptives. While many have argued that the court erred in that case in finding that the Constitution protects the right to privacy, that right was well-established precedent at the time Roe v. Wade was decided and remains so today.

The force of precedent alone should not prohibit the court from reconsidering past decisions. Yet those who believe the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution cannot simply attack it on the basis of its use in one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions. Overturning precedent is a rare and drastic step, not to be taken merely on the basis of one judge's personal views. It is ironic that a judge who has advocated such an act of judicial activism has been trumpeted as a believer in judicial restraint.

LAUREN SAUNDERS Cambridge, Mass.