Conservative Judge Robert Bork Dead At 85

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 19 2012 11:39 AM

Conservative Judge Robert Bork Dead At 85

Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork listens during a panel discussion about the U.S. Senate's role on judicial nomination process September 1, 2005 in Washington, DC

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Conservative federal judge and legal theorist Robert Bork, probably best known for his failed nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, died on Wednesday at the age of 85, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and other news outlets are reporting.

Bork served last year as senior judicial adviser to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. Over his judicial career, Bork advocated for and practiced an "originalist" approach to constitutional interpretation. "Origininalism" is a conservative approach to interpretation that looks to determine the Founders' original intent of the constitution.


Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan resulted in one of the fiercest appointment battles in history, Politico explains. His nomination was opposed by Democrats, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, who gave a speech on the Senate floor claiming that "“was no room at the inn for Blacks, and no place in the Constitution for women.” in Bork's version of America. After the Senate rejected Bork's nomination, the Supreme Court vacancy was filled by Justice Anthony Kennedy. But the appointment battle has had a lasting effect on later nominations to the high court, as the Times explains:

The success of the anti-Bork campaign is widely seen to have shifted the tone and emphasis of Supreme Court nominations since then, giving them an often strong political cast and making it hard, many argue, for a nominee with firmly held views ever to get confirmed.

Bork died at his Virginia home of complications from heart disease, according to the Times.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.


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