Judge Bork's failed Supreme Court nomination made history in 1987. He died Wednesday at age 85.
ARLINGTON, Va. — Robert H. Bork, whose failed 1980s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court helped draw the modern boundaries of cultural fights over abortion, civil rights and other issues, has died. He was 85.
Son Robert H. Bork Jr. confirmed the death Wednesday. His father had a long career in politics and the law that took him from respected academic to a totem of conservative grievance.
Bork's defeat during the 1987 Senate nomination hearings made him a hero to the right and a rallying cry for younger conservatives.
Bork also was accused of being a partisan hatchet man for President Richard Nixon when he fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973.
Facts about Robert Bork:
Nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1987, Bork was rejected by the Democratic-led U.S. Senate following debate over his conservative judicial philosophy.
As solicitor general in the U.S. Justice Department, Bork was involved in the 1973 "Saturday night massacre" of the Watergate era, carrying out President Richard Nixon's order to fire Archibald Cox, a special prosecutor who was investigating the White House, after the attorney general and his assistant resigned rather than carry out the order. The backlash ultimately led to Nixon's resignation under threat of impeachment, in August 1974.
Bork is one of the few Americans to give his name to a verb. "To bork" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 with the definition, "To defame or vilify (a person) systematically, especially in the mass media, usually with the aim of preventing his or her appointment to public office; to obstruct or thwart (a person) in this way."
Bork was an active jurist with a long record of writings and decisions. Among the more controversial were his views that the U.S. Constitution contained no generalized right to privacy nor any unlimited authorization of free speech. He held that judges should interpret the law narrowly according to the "original intent" of the Constitution's framers rather than engage in judicial activism and make new law.
Three months after the Senate quashed his Supreme Court nomination, Bork resigned as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals after six years of service and went into private law, scholarship and commentary, becoming a writer, speaker and supporter of conservative causes for years to come.
Writing by Paul Grant, Washington Editorial Reference Unit
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