WASHINGTON — Former President Jimmy Carter today denounced Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork's "obnoxious" views on civil rights and accused Bork of siding with "the most powerful and authoritarian" forces in past court cases.
In declaring his opposition to Bork's nomination, Carter said he wanted to clear up any misunderstanding that he supported the views of his attorney general, Griffin B. Bell, and his White House counsel, Lloyd Cutler.
"As a Southerner who has observed personally the long and difficult years of the struggle for civil rights for blacks and other minority peoples, I find Judge Bork's impressively consistent opinions to be particularly obnoxious," Carter said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.).
Carter's letter was distributed to committee members during the 12th and possibly final day of testimony in Bork's confirmation hearings.
Carter said he is particularly disturbed by Bork's views that "government forces have an extraordinary legal right to intrude on the privacy of individuals." And, he said, "he has almost invariably sided with the most powerful and authoritarian litigant" in cases on which he has expressed an opinion.
The former Democratic President urged the committee not to be swayed by Bork's testimony that he has modified some of his past views on civil rights and civil liberties issues. Once Bork was confirmed, Carter wrote, he would revert to past philosophical positions, which would produce "a deleterious effect on future decisions involving personal freedom, justice for the deprived and basic human rights."
President Reagan, fighting to keep his nomination of Bork alive, urged the Senate today to ignore a "campaign of disinformation and distortion" against the conservative jurist. The President did not say whom he was accusing of such a campaign.
The President, in a speech to supporters at the White House complex, said his nominee represents the mainstream of U.S. legal thought, and he hotly disputed the idea that Bork is a radical who would upset the balance of the court.
"I do not believe the United States Senate will succumb to allowing the special interests to choose Supreme Court members," Reagan said.
At the confirmation hearings today, two state attorneys general testified that Bork's elevation to the Supreme Court would result in "the squeezing of consumer pocketbooks and the draining of America's entrepreneurial spirit."
Atty. Gens. Robert Abrams of New York and Charles Brown of West Virginia testified that Bork's writing and judicial record show that he is hostile to existing antitrust law and court precedents and to small businesses. They said he would be an activist in pushing these positions if elevated to the high court.
Before the session got under way, Cranston and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced their opposition to Bork. Both had been expected to oppose confirmation.