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Senate Panel Advisers Call Bork 'Conservative Activist'

September 04, 1987|DAVID G. SAVAGE | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report Thursday accusing the White House of falsely portraying Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork as a moderate jurist and contending instead that he is a "conservative activist."

The analysis, prepared by two legal consultants for Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), said that Bork has denounced a series of high court rulings that advanced civil rights for minority members and women and has favored limits on free speech.

"The attempt by the White House to depict Judge Bork as a mainstream moderate simply does not comport with his record," the 83-page analysis of Bork's judicial record concluded.

Hearings Soon

The report was issued less than two weeks before the committee begins hearings on Bork's nomination and is the latest salvo in a war of legal analyses and press releases issued by critics and supporters of President Reagan's nominee.

With many observers believing that the fate of Bork's appointment rests with about a dozen moderate members of the Senate, the White House has been attempting to portray him as a centrist who exercises judicial restraint, while opponents have been tarring him as a right-wing extremist.

Biden did not comment on Thursday's report, but he has declared his opposition to the nominee. He requested the analysis from the committee consultants--a Washington attorney and a law professor--after White House lawyers released a report last month supporting Reagan's assertion that Bork would display the "detachment and statesmanship" of retiring Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.

"The record of Judge's Bork's public pronouncements and actions over the past quarter-century paint a picture of . . . an extremely conservative activist rather than a genuine apostle of judicial restraint and moderation," the report said.

1963 Opposition

It said that Bork "has opposed virtually every major civil rights advance on which he has taken a position" in his career as a lawyer, a law professor and a judge.

The report noted that in 1963 Bork opposed a law that would give blacks the right to be served in public businesses such as restaurants, denounced the court for striking down housing covenants that excluded blacks from buying homes in certain neighborhoods and criticized the court for ending poll taxes and literacy tests for voting.

On issues of presidential power, the analysis said, Bork has taken strong stands in favor of the chief executive. It cited Bork's testimony before a congressional committee in 1978 that the President had the right to tap the telephones of spy suspects without getting a warrant from a court. He has also favored prior restraints on the press, it said.

The report was prepared by lawyer Jeffrey Peck and Duke University law professor Christopher Schroeder.

White House View

In its analysis, the White House said that, as a professor, Bork urged the courts to faithfully follow the law, not to make it, and as a judge voted with the appeals court majority in 94% of the cases, demonstrating that he was in step with his colleagues.

Bork "is among the most eloquent and principled proponents of judicial restraint," the White House said.

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