WASHINGTON -- Former President Jimmy Carter declared Wednesday he is strongly opposed to Robert Bork because of the Supreme Court nominee's 'obnoxious' views on civil rights and tendency to side with 'the most powerful and authoritarian' forces in society.
In a letter to Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released Wednesday, Carter said he wanted to 'avoid any misunderstanding' that he supported the views of his former aides who have testified for Bork -- Griffin Bell, Carter's attorney general, and Lloyd Cutler, who was White House counsel.
'As a Southerner who has observed personally the long and difficult years of the struggle for civil rights for blacks and other minority peoples,' Carter wrote, 'I find Judge Bork's impressively consistent opinions to be particularly obnoxious.'
Carter's letter was released on the committee's 12th and final day of public hearings which began Sept. 15.
Carter is the second former chief executive to make his views known to the committee. Former President Gerald Ford, in an unprecedented action, introduced Bork to the panel and testified on his behalf Sept. 15.
Biden also said Wednesday that the panel plans to consider the nomination Tuesday -- but whether a vote is taken is in doubt, because many senators favor bringing the nomination to the floor without a committee recommendation.
Bork, 60, was nominated by President Reagan July 1 to succeed retired Justice Lewis Powell. Since 1982 -- when the Senate unanimously confirmed him -- Bork has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Since then, Bork's opponents say he could tip the balance of the nation's highest bench substantially to the right if confirmed. His supporters say Bork is a noted legal thinker whose views, albeit conservative, are in the mainstream of American legal philosphy.
Carter said he had reviewed Bork's writings and key rulings 'on the most significant and often controversial issues of our time, and I find many of his forcefully expressed opinions in contradiction to my concept of what this nation is and ought to be.'
The former president said he was particularly disturbed by Bork's views that 'government forces have an extraordinary legal right to intrude on the privacy of individuals.'
Bork also 'has almost invariably sided with the most powerful and authoritarian litigant' in cases in which he expressed an opinion, Carter said.
Carter urged the committee not to be swayed by Bork's testimony to the committee two weeks ago in which the judge 'attempted to renounce some of his more radical writings and rulings.'
Bork told the committee he now accepts as 'settled law' some civil rights and civil liberties decisions he had attacked in a quarter century of writings and speeches.
But if Bork is confirmed, Carter said, he would likely revert to past philosophical positions to produce 'a deleterious effect on future decisions involving personal freedom, justice for the deprived and basic human rights.'
Biden also released anti-Bork letters Wednesday from 1,925 law professors at 153 of the nation's 172 accredited law schools. Biden said the number represented 40 percent of all law professors at accredited law schools and included professors in the 47 states with accredited schools.
For his part, Reagan urged the Senate 'not to give in to noisy, strident pressures' and said senators should move forward with confirmation.
Wednesday's testimony renewed the contrasting views of the controversial nominee. Witnesses depicted Bork as anti-consumer and as a champion of women concerned with family values.
New York Attorney General Robert Abrams and West Virginia Attorney General Charles Brown testified that Bork's writings and judicial record show he is hostile to small businesses and to existing antitrust law and court precedents.
In support of Bork, Beverly LaHaye, president of Concerned Women for America, a 550,000-member conservative group, said liberal women's groups opposing Bork were 'vocal minorities' who do not speak for all women.
Bork, she said, would uphold 'equality under the law, the preservation of the family, and ... laws which protect women in their uniqueness as women.'
Also testifying for Bork Wednesday were Roy Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality, and lawyer Herbert Brownell, who was attorney general in the Eisenhower administration. Brownell is the sixth former attorney general to endorse Bork. Testifying against Bork were representatives of three police organizations with a total membership of more than 50,000.
Committee Republicans again attacked Bork's critics who have attempted to portray the nominee as a right-wing ideologue.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, assailed as biased and 'character assassination' a Louis Harris Survey released over the weekend showing that 57 percent of those polled opposed Bork
Hatch said the wording of the survey questions case Bork as 'a bedroom invading bigot' that no one could possibly support.