1987 October 23

Senate Rejects Court Nominee Robert H. Bork


The U.S. Senate on this day rejected the nomination of Robert Bork for a seat on the Supreme Court. The vote was 42 in favor and 58 against, and came after a bitter battle over his views on the right to privacy, abortion, and civil rights enforcement. Bork had been nominated by President Ronald Reagan. The fight introduced a new verb into American political vocabulary: “To Bork” (meaning to obstruct a candidate for appointive office by attacking his or her policies).

Part of the objections to Bork was an article he published on August 31, 1963 objecting to the pending civil rights bill, which became the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. More people probably read the article on the occasion of his Supreme Court nomination than when it was first published.

The Bork rejection had a lasting impact on subsequent Supreme Court nominations, causing nominees to not give direct answers to questions on politically charged issues such as abortion, so as to avoid controversy.

Read Bork’s account of his nomination controversy: Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America (1990)

Read about the fight over his nomination: Ethan Bronner, Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America (2007)

Watch a news report on Bork’s confirmation hearings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ffTtOMIJAk

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