Former Supreme Court Nominee Robert Bork Dies

The 85-year-old became a household name in 1987, when a Democratic-controlled Senate torpedoed his nomination to serve on the Supreme Court

File - AP

Legal scholar and former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork died Wednesday, NBC News has confirmed. He was 85.

Bork's son confirmed to the Associated Press that his father died of complications of heart problems at an Arlington, Va., hospital on Wednesday.

By the time President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1987, Bork had served as a federal appeals court judge and as Solicitor General.

It was his unsuccessful nomination to the high court, however, that turned his into a household name — and eventually into the verb "to bork."

Almost four months after his nomination, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted against confirming Bork for appointment to the Supreme Court.

That rejection followed intense scrutiny of his originalist views on the Constitution and his conservative jurisprudence and a tough campaign against him.

It was fueled by a ferociously critical speech by Sen. Ted Kennedy opposing his confirmation, and it paved the way for the successful nomination of Justice Anthony Kennedy as a replacement.

Conservatives mourned Bork's death Wednesday, among them the chief executive of the Hudson Institute, the conservative think-tank where Bork was a fellow.

"Robert Bork was a giant, a brilliant and fearless legal scholar, and a gentleman whose incredible wit and erudition made him a wonderful Hudson colleague," Hudson Institute President and CEO Kenneth Weinstein said in a statement.

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