With the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, President Ronald Reagan hoped to place a prominent conservative jurist on the bench. From the outset, his choice of Judge Robert Bork of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit was controversial. As U.S. Solicitor General, he fired special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox on President Nixon’s orders in 1973. The event became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre”
Prominent liberal legislators and activists engaged in a vigorous opposition campaign. In a famous speech that later became known as “Bork’s America, “ Senator Ted Kennedy said “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.” President Reagan and conservative supporters considered the speech slanderous but they failed to manage a timely and effective response. Judge Bork’s nomination was rejected by a vote of 42-58.
To learn more:
• Ethan Bronner Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America (Norton 1989) LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) KF8742.B74 1989
• Michael Pertschuk The People Rising: The Campaign Against the Bork Nomination (Thunder Mouth Press 1989) LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) KF8742.P337 1989
• Mark Gitenstein Matter of Principle: An Insider’s Account of America’s Rejection of Robert Bork’s Nomination to the Supreme Court LAW-4th Floor KF8742.G57 1992