University of Pittsburgh
December 19, 2012

Pitt Faculty Expert Arthur Hellman Available to Comment on the Late Robert H. Bork’s Failed Supreme Court Nomination as Turning Point in Federal Judicial Confirmation Process

PITTSBURGH—The death of Pittsburgh native Robert H. Bork, a former judge of the District of Columbia Circuit Court and U.S. solicitor general in the Nixon administration, brought back memories of Bork’s failed bid to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, when the U.S. Senate rejected his nomination by then-President Ronald Reagan.

University of Pittsburgh Professor of Law and eminent federal courts scholar Arthur D. Hellman is available to comment on how the defeat of Bork’s nomination became a turning point in the federal judicial confirmation process.

“The fight over the Bork nomination and his ultimate rejection by the Senate can be seen as the start of the modern era in federal judicial nominations,” said Hellman. “Extreme rhetoric, advocacy groups on both sides stirring up their followers, and the use of nomination fights as a proxy for fights over other issues—these are now familiar phenomena, but they were not in 1987.”

Pitt’s Sally Ann Semenko Endowed Chair, Hellman is one of the leading academic commentators on issues of federal judicial ethics. He also is the nation’s leading academic authority on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the largest of the federal appellate courts. Hellman’s unique series of empirical studies on the operation of precedent in the U.S. Supreme Court and the courts of appeals has been used as a basis for policy decisions at both the federal and state levels.

Hellman has testified as an invited witness at hearings of the Judiciary Committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. His proposals for overriding a Supreme Court decision on federal jurisdiction were adopted in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249)—previously called the Patent Reform Act of 2011—that was enacted into law. 

Hellman’s articles and books include Federal Courts: Cases and Materials on Judicial Federalism and the Lawyering Process (LexisNexis, 2d ed. 2009), with Lauren Robel and David R. Stras, and First Amendment Law: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender, 2d ed. 2010), with William D. Araiza and Thomas E. Baker.

Hellman’s teaching areas in Pitt’s School of Law include constitutional law, federal courts, and federal litigation. Hellman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Harvard University and a Juris Doctor degree at Yale University.