Conservative jurist Robert H. Bork died early Wednesday at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington of complications from heart disease at 85, The Washington Post has confirmed.
Bork served as solicitor general from 1973 to 1977, acting attorney general from 1973 to 1974, and circuit judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1982 to 1988.
He was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court on July 1, 1987. Confirmation was denied by the Senate on Oct. 23 of that year, sparking a permanent political rift over judicial nominations.
Following his 1988 resignation as circuit judge, he joined the American Enterprise Institute, leaving five years later. He was Tad and Diane Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and, most recently, distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Bork left an enduring impression on conservatism. As Washington Post colleagues Al Kamen and Matt Schudel put it:
For decades, Judge Bork was a major architect of the conservative rebuttal to what he considered liberal judicial activism. He criticized civil rights legislation and rulings in cases involving the “one man, one vote” principle and the constitutional right to privacy.
His unrelenting calls for judicial restraint and his opposition to “imperialistic” liberal judges, who he said read their values into the Constitution, made him an iconic figure in conservative legal circles.
In his writings and in debates on legal doctrine, the burly, bearded, chain-smoking ex-Marine was sharply confrontational. But friends and enemies alike found him a man of great charm, compassion and intellect, with a wit so sharp a close friend once called it dangerous.