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Biden Report Says White House Has Skewed Bork Image

September 03, 1987|United Press International

WASHINGTON — An analysis of the record of Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork released today by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contradicting White House findings, said Bork is a conservative activist who could undo three decades of social progress if confirmed.

The 72-page analysis, prepared by consultants to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), said a White House "briefing book" on Bork, which paints him as a moderate judge of the "mainstream tradition," is a "distortion of his record" and contains "major inaccuracies."

Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, commissioned the report to counter the White House paper, written to soften Bork's image as a hard-line conservative.

The Administration is promoting Bork as a moderate like Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., whom he was nominated to replace.

Biden's consultants, Washington lawyer Jeffrey Peck and Duke University law professor Christopher Schroeder, concluded that Bork is not an advocate of judicial restraint, as the White House claims, but actually is a judicial activist determined to advance President Reagan's conservative social agenda well into the next century.

Five-Vote Majority

"From his record, it appears that Bork's addition to the court would cement a five-vote majority for undoing much of the social progress of the last three decades," they wrote.

"An accurate portrait of Judge Bork's record leaves no doubt that he has been a conservative activist and not a practitioner of judicial restraint."

Both studies are likely to be used as ammunition by Republicans and Democrats when Biden's committee opens confirmation hearings Sept. 15. The most recent head count indicated that senators were evenly split on Bork, 60, a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington.

Hired Consultants

A spokesman for Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, stressed that the consultants were hired by Biden and did not represent the views of Republicans on the committee.

The Biden report methodically challenged the White House briefing book on various points, including Bork's stand on the First Amendment and abortion. While the White House called him "a powerful ally of First Amendment values," the report concluded that he "would narrow many well-established First Amendment protections."

The White House study pointed out that Bork has never issued a ruling indicating whether he would vote to reverse Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 decision legalizing most abortions. The Biden report said his writings and public comments reveal that he is likely to provide the crucial fifth vote needed to reverse the ruling.

The study also contradicted White House suggestions that Bork has consistently protected civil rights.

"Judge Bork's extensive record shows that he has opposed virtually every major civil rights advance on which he has taken a position," the report said, citing his 1963 opposition to a bill guaranteeing blacks equality in public accommodations and his criticism of decisions banning literacy tests in voting.

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