"Robert Bork was one of America's greatest jurists and a brilliant legal mind," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a onetime constitutional lawyer and friend of the judge. "He was an expert on issues ranging from antitrust to privacy laws and was deeply influential in promoting constitutional originalism. Despite the unfortunate and unnecessary controversy surrounding his Supreme Court nomination, Judge Bork remained an inspirational figure for those seeking to enforce constitutional limits on the federal government. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bork family."
That political fight raised the stakes for future Supreme Court nominations, bringing a new level of intensity and partisanship to the process. Groups on both sides of the ideological debate saw advantages in pointing out the impact the high court and its nine justices have on the rule of law and the hot-button issues decided.
The Supreme Court in June made a landmark opinion, upholding the sweeping health care reform law championed by President Obama. Rulings on affirmative action, voting rights and same-sex marriage can be expected by next June.
Years after the political fight, Bork admitted that the partisan rejection of his nomination was personally trying. He had stepped down from the bench a year after it.
Bork suffered in past years with heart disease. Before his death, he was a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute, which researches and analyzes issues involving defense policy, international relations, health care, technology culture and law.
The foundation's president and CEO, Kenneth Weinstein, said Bork will be missed.
"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," Weinstein said in a statement on the organization's website.