WASHINGTON - Robert Bork, whose 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate after a partisan battle, on Wednesday branded current nominee Elena Kagan unfit to serve in part because of her admiration for a liberal Israeli judge.
Bork spoke on behalf of a conservative group the same day as Kagan's former law-clerk colleagues from across the ideological spectrum praised her qualifications.
Opponents and backers of President Obama's choice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens stepped up their efforts, with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Kagan's confirmation days away.
Bork said Kagan's admiration for the former president of Israel's Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, disqualifies her. Barak "may be the worst judge on the planet - the most activist," he said.
"If people understood that an American Supreme Court nominee was going to follow the example of Barak, there would be grave misgivings and probably a refusal to confirm," Bork said.
Barak is acknowledged by critics and admirers as an enormously influential jurist who took an activist approach. He once declared a series of human-rights laws enacted by the legislature to be Israel's constitution, and said it was up to the court to review legislation to ensure it complied.
He drew praise from Kagan in 2006, who at an award ceremony honoring him called Barak "my judicial hero," and said he was the judge "in my lifetime who I think best represents and has best advanced the values of democracy and human rights, of the rule of law and of justice."
Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's conservative icon, also spoke glowingly of Barak during a 2007 award ceremony at the Supreme Court, although he acknowledged deep legal and philosophical differences with him.
Bork spoke in a conference call organized by Americans United for Life, an antiabortion group that opposes Kagan.
At the same time, 29 people who worked alongside Kagan as law clerks to liberal and conservative justices at the Supreme Court called her exceptionally well-qualified. They were clerks from 1987 to 1988, when Kagan worked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, and wrote to the Judiciary Committee to endorse her.