Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations

By Norman Vieira; Leonard Gross | Go to book overview

2
ENTER JUDGE BORK

When Justice Powell retired, President Reagan asked the Justice Department to put together a complete list of potential nominees. He specifically asked that Judge Bork be included on the list, since Bork had been a candidate earlier and had lost out narrowly when Scalia was nominated. A list was prepared, containing about ten names.1

White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker showed the list to Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd and Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden. Administration sources said that the list was submitted pro forma and that the real purpose of the consultation was to determine whether Bork would receive serious opposition in the Senate.22 Although Biden indicated that a Bork nomination would cause problems, the White House decided that he would still be confirmable. When asked whether consideration had been given to the difficulty of confirming Bork, Meese remarked that "it was discussed but [was] not decisive."33

The list of ten candidates was quickly narrowed to three or four.44 All of the candidates on the short list were then interviewed by Justice Department and White House personnel. On July 1, 1987, Bork was interviewed by Presidential Counsel A. B. Culvahouse. According to Bork, no legal issues or cases were discussed. The interview consisted basically of an attempt to update the FBI background check and to determine whether there were any skeletons in Bork's closet. Later that day, Bork received a telephone call from Howard Baker, who asked him to come over to see the president. At the White House, Bork talked about the confirmation process with Baker, A. B. Culvahouse, and others. Again, no substantive issues were discussed; but no discussions were necessary, given Bork's widely known views on public issues.55

Shortly thereafter, Bork met with President Reagan in the Oval Office. Reagan told Bork that he proposed to nominate him to fill Justice

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