One of the most bitterly contested appointments in U.S. judicial history, Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court created the precedent that a nominee’s judicial philosophy could be a subject of intense scrutiny by the Senate.
On July 1, 1987, President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, announced that he would nominate Bork, a former judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to fill the position on the Supreme Court vacated by retiring Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. The nomination elicited immediate and bitter response not only in the Democrat-controlled Senate but also from liberal and radical groups throughout the country. They were alarmed by Bork’s well-known conservative views on legal matters, particularly because he embraced the principle of judicial restraint and original intent, and were also suspicious of his opinions concerning civil rights, free speech, and the right of privacy and of his alleged pro-business orientation. Normally, Senate hearings examine only a nominee’s academic and judicial credentials, judicial temperament, and personal integrity. On these matters, Bork had a sterling record. However, the Senate, in a departure from customary behavior, closely scrutinized his judicial philosophy, including his political views. The Senate’s Judiciary Committee eventually voted not to recommend Bork by a 9-5 vote, and the full Senate voted on October 23, 1987, against his confirmation by a 58-42 margin.
Nominations to the Court
Powell, Lewis F., Jr.
Privacy, right to