Today's "conventional wisdom" that to be a successful Supreme Court nominee one must not have any explicitly expressed legal views draws the wrong lesson from the Bork confirmation hearings. It was not that Judge Bork expressed his views, but that the views that he expressed got him into trouble. It is perfectly appropriate for the Senate to reject a nominee whose constitutional views are outside the American mainstream.

As Charles Krauthammer notes {"The Court: A Check on the Future," op-ed, Sept. 14}, the "vow of silence rule is a loss for political discourse." The challenge for young lawyers like myself is not carefully choreographed silence but writing, speaking and debating about constitutional issues to persuade others that our views are correct.


The Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge David Souter have illuminated, once again, the shortcomings of looking to the Supreme Court to establish, rather than uphold, our constitutional liberties.

The Founders of our republic envisioned liberties to be secured in part by a limited and fragmented government and in part by the Bill of Rights. To them, too much power concentrated in one branch was the very definition of tyranny, and for this reason they devised a government of three separate but connected branches where many people would be responsible for governing. The notion, then, of the possibility of a right being completely eviscerated by the replacement of a single Supreme Court justice would have astonished them. The security of rights -- real rights -- would surely be contingent on more than one person.

The point here is that rights established by Supreme Court opinions are rights that will not necessarily endure, for they can usually be eliminated as easily as they were put in place. Rights, then, in order to endure the ideological shifts of our national government, should be agreed on by the citizens of the nation -- not simply by a majority of the electorally unaccountable Supreme Court.

In short, real rights should be secured and cemented by way of the Constitution's amendment process. This is to say only one thing to those who want national protection for a right of abortion: it is time to stop running to the court and to start rallying your forces for a constitutional amendment. Only rights secured in this way will not be in danger of perishing every time there is a change of personnel on the high court. Finally, it would be healthy and refreshing if Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees returned to being more than just partisan politics over the issue of abortion. BRUCE LARSON Charlottesville