Robert Bork, the U.S. judge and legal scholar whose nomination to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan set off a battle for the judiciary that lived on long after the U.S. Senate rejected him, has died. He was 85.His lasing legacy: "Borking"
He died this morning at Virginia Medical Center in Arlington, Virignia, said his son, Robert Jr. The cause was heart disease.
Bork’s defeat in the Senate by a roll call of 58 to 42 -- the most votes ever against a Supreme Court nominee -- established new rules for how prospective justices get selected and vetted. The word “borking” entered the political lexicon, meaning, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, trying to block candidates for public office “by systematically defaming or vilifying them.”
“My name became a verb,” Bork told CNN in 2005, “and I regard that as one form of immortality.”
In nationally televised hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee delved into Bork’s ideology, not just his legal qualifications or competence. His past commentary on hot-button issues became fodder for his interrogators, establishing that long paper trails can be liabilities for judicial nominees.
Advocacy groups adopted the tactics of political campaigns, paying for print and broadcast advertising as part of what Ethan Bronner, in “Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America” (1989), called an “unprecedented lobbying campaign against a Supreme Court nominee.”
There was so much about the man's career that was remarkable. Please do read the whole Bloomberg article about it. From the progressive perspective, Bork was a vile candidate for the bench:
Before the confirmation hearings even began, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the Judiciary Committee chairman who was then seeking the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, declared that he would lead the fight against Bork.But THIS is what set Bork off on his right-wing career:
“I don’t have an open mind,” said Biden, the future vice president. “The reason I don’t is that I know this man.”
In a 1963 article for New Republic magazine, Bork had criticized civil-rights legislation that barred restaurants, hotels and other public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of race. While the “ugliness” of racism was clear, he wrote, “having the state coerce you into more righteous paths” is “a principle of unsurpassed ugliness.”
On abortion, he had testified at a 1981 Senate hearing that Roe v. Wade was “an unconstitutional decision, a serious and wholly unjustifiable judicial usurpation of state legislative authority.” He also had criticized the 1965 Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to privacy that, among other things, permitted married couples to purchase contraception.
As the confirmation hearings began, Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democrat, said Bork “is publicly itching to overrule many of the great decisions of the Supreme Court that seek to fulfill the promise of justice for all Americans.”
In what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon on Oct. 20, 1973, ordered the dismissal of the independent Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox. The attorney general, Elliot Richardson, and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, both resigned rather than fulfill the order. That left Bork as acting attorney general, and he carried out the firing of Cox while ensuring that a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, was appointed to continue the investigation.May he, his family, and his friends know peace.