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B, Bork, Robert Heron

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 20 September 2020

Bork, Robert Heron

(b. Pittsburgh, Pa., 1 Mar. 1927), federal appellate judge and unconfirmed nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Following a distinguished career in private law practice, on the faculty of Yale Law School, and as U.S. *solicitor general (1973–1977), Bork was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, by President Ronald *Reagan in 1982. On 1 July 1987, Reagan nominated him for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Lewis *Powell. After an unusually lengthy hearing, the *Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination, 9 to 5; the full Senate defeated it by a vote of 58 to 42 on 23 October 1987. Bork resigned from the court of appeals in February 1988 and became a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Bork’s nomination sparked intense interest-group activity, including unprecedented efforts to mobilize grassroots opposition. Bork’s legal competence and personal integrity were indisputable, and debate focused on his conservative political and legal views, particularly those relating to the constitutional right to *privacy and the *First Amendment. Broader political factors also contributed to his defeat: The Iran-Contra scandal had weakened the Reagan administration, and it failed to mobilize its resources effectively in Bork’s behalf. The Democrats controlled the Senate, and even southern Democrats, becoming more responsive to their black constituents, who widely opposed Bork, failed to support the nomination. Liberals saw this vacancy as crucial because of Justice Powell’s swing vote in many civil rights and liberties cases and because of his support of *Roe v. Wade (1973).

See also nominations, controversial; nominees, rejection of.

Susan M. Olson