Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism—July 1

Robert Bork at his Senate confirmation hearings in 1987. (CNP/Getty)

1976—By a 5-4 vote, the Court rules in Singleton v. Wulff that two abortionists challenging limitations on Medicaid funding of abortion had standing to assert not only their own rights but also the rights of their patients. This expansion of third-party standing will fuel litigation against abortion regulations for decades to come.

1987—Upon President Reagan’s announcement of his decision to nominate D.C. Circuit judge Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court, Senator Edward Kennedy races to the Senate floor to launch a viciously false attack on Bork:

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….

The campaign of calumny that Kennedy initiates will lead several months later to the defeat of Bork’s nomination.

2002—Federal district judge Jed S. Rakoff rules (in United States v. Quinones) that the federal death penalty is unconstitutional. In October 2002, a unanimous Second Circuit panel, in an opinion by Judge José A. Cabranes (a Clinton appointee), will reverse Rakoff’s ruling.

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