Robert Bork, the former Yale Law School professor and one-time Supreme Court nominee, has settled a $1 million lawsuit with the Yale Club that he filed for injuries sustained when he fell at the alumni social club last June while stepping onto a dais. But the terms of the settlement are confidential, Bork’s attorney, Randy Mastro, said Monday.
Mastro declined further comment. Eric Schnittman, the attorney for the Yale Club, did not return a phone message seeking comment. Neither did Tim Hill, a spokesman for the club.
Bork sought $1 million in damages, claiming the Yale Club was negligent in not providing a handrail or stairs to the stage on which he was set to deliver a speech in early June 2007. Instead, the 81-year-old originalist fell, striking his leg and head. The complaint claimed the fall caused a large hematoma to form on his leg, inflicting “excruciating pain” and requiring surgery and months of medical treatment.
Yale Club attorneys had said in court filings last summer that the injuries were at least partially Bork’s own fault since he proceeded to mount the dais.
Yale Law School professor Peter Schuck, who specializes in tort law, said Monday the vast majority of such cases are settled out of court and the terms are usually confidential, which encourages parties to make deals without fearing that their legal position will be undermined publicly.
But while Robert Bork may have settled his lawsuit against the Yale Club, it seems less likely that he has settled his long-time grudge against Yale quite yet.
Last June, Schuck said the lawsuit was indicative of Bork’s “resentment” toward the University.
“I think his having elevated his defeat into a now 20-year crusade of resentment and fury seems rather churlish,” he said. “I certainly sympathize with his anger in having been defeated in his bid for a seat he had every reason to believe he deserved, but I think that this is in the nature of modern-style high Supreme Court nomination politics, and he should get over it.”
Many observers saw irony in Bork’s lawsuit since he is considered one of the fathers of the tort reform movement, which advocates limiting lawsuits involving personal injuries and other civil disputes.
But others saw it as another spat in the ruptured relationship between Bork and the law school where he taught from 1962 and 1982.
In those two decades, Bork took leaves of absence to serve as solicitor general and acting attorney general in Washington. In Richard Nixon’s Justice Department, Bork was the official who fired the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal after the attorney general and his assistant refused to do so in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre.
Bork left Yale’s faculty in 1982 to accept an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. But his relationship with the school began to erode when some of his former colleagues spoke out against him after President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1987.
Yale law professors testified both for and against his nomination, which was ultimately rejected by Senate Democrats who objected to his conservative judicial record.
“There are some people whose role I didn’t admire,” Bork said in a 2005 interview with The New York Times. “There were some people who can only be described as on the left who were quite vicious.”
A portrait of Bork hangs in room 120 at Yale’s Sterling Law Building.