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Three Leaders of Bar Take Hard Line Against Bork

September 25, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two former American Bar Assn. presidents and the head of the New York City bar testified strongly against Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork, saying he would "disregard two centuries of American history."

At today's hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the three attorneys told the panel that Bork would not disregard long-held views despite his recent changes in some positions during testimony before the lawmakers.

Robert Kaufman, president of the Bar Assn. of the City of New York, said: "You have to take 30 years of statements of philosophy very seriously. The next case has new facts, and there's no reason to believe . . . that when Judge Bork sees new facts in a new case, that he won't apply his principles. I think the philosophy he would apply would be the philosophy he has expressed for 30 years."

When Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), a Bork supporter, read from letters of New York bar association members protesting Kaufman's opposition as against the bar group's rules, Kaufman said he was operating within the rules, and contended that the dissenters represented only a minority of the association.

Robert Meserve, a former ABA president, said to the panel, "If I were on your committee I would vote against confirmation."

He said Bork, in seeking to follow the intent of the Constitution's framers, "would disregard two centuries of American history. On every constitutional decision involving human rights, to paraphrase an old song, 'they're all out of step but Bob.' "

'Intellectual Nit-Picking'

He said Bork is guilty of "intellectual nit-picking."

Former ABA president Chesterfield Smith said: "You should not have on the Supreme Court someone whom large segments of the people distrust. I want to know there's someone who believes the Constitution should meet the changing needs of the people."

Smith added: "There are large segments of the people who believe he has a knee-jerk reaction. I'd like to feel there's someone I could talk to who's not knee-jerk already."

Both Smith, from Lakeland, Fla., and Meserve, from Boston, headed the ABA during the Watergate era--Meserve in 1972-73 and Smith in 1973-74.

Also today, Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institute in California became the first black to testify in support of Bork, who is opposed by prominent civil rights leaders.

He said the attacks on Bork are "confused, hysterical and often dishonest."

Attack From Specter

Sowell, an economist and author with no legal background, came under stinging attack from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), one of the key undecided committee members.

Specter said Sowell's testimony suggested lack of familiarity with Bork's more controversial views.

"I have a real question about how much you know about Judge Bork," Specter said.

The senator said the courts led the way in ending segregation and then reeled off a number of Bork statements on free speech and equal rights.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who dropped out of the presidential race Wednesday, was in his seat as committee chairman when today's hearing began. He spent Thursday talking to campaign supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire while the committee was in recess for the Jewish new year.

The hearings will continue Monday and could carry over into a fourth week, overlapping the beginning of the new Supreme Court term Oct. 5.

Reagan raps Bork critics, Page 2.

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