A federal bankruptcy judge has said there may be "not one, but two smoking guns" to support claims that Justice Department officials attempted to force a Washington computer software company out of business because of a long-running feud between the department and the firm.

Judge George F. Bason Jr., who made the comment at a hearing last week, is expected to rule today on a request to remove the federal trustee -- an employe of the Justice Department -- from the bankruptcy proceedings of Inslaw Inc.

Inslaw contends that Justice officials tried unsuccessfully two years ago to force the company to liquidate under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code rather than allow it to reorganize under Chapter 11.

Inslaw, which makes computer software that allows prosecutors to keep track of criminal cases in the courts, says it was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in February 1985 because of a vendetta by current and former officials of the Justice Department, formerly the firm's largest customer. It also charges that Justice officials have continued to harass the company in bankruptcy.

One of the accused officials is a former employe of Inslaw who was fired during the 1970s, and the other tried unsuccessfully to market a competing software package, Inslaw lawyers say.

The Justice Department has repeatedly denied the charges, arguing that Inslaw failed to live up to its obligations under a contract with the department.

Stuart Schiffer, a deputy assistant attorney general, said yesterday, "I'm familiar with the record; I'm unaware of any evidence that suggests any wrongdoing by the Justice Department."

Last week, near the end of a four-day hearing on Inslaw's allegations, Bason said that, looking at the evidence "in the light most favorable to Inslaw," he believed Inslaw's contention that the executive director of the Justice Department's bankruptcy trustee program, Thomas Stanton, tried to pressure then-U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee William C. White to convert Inslaw's bankruptcy case from Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code to Chapter 7, so that the company would be liquidated.

"If true, these are quite extraordinary acts on the part of Mr. Stanton, and constitute a clear abuse of his office," Bason said in rejecting a motion by the government to dismiss the case. "If, indeed, Mr. Stanton did improperly pressure Mr. White to file a motion to convert the Inslaw case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, then Mr. Stanton would have every reason to commit perjury and to suborn perjury in others. . . .

"If this court remains convinced at the conclusion of the entire hearing that Mr. Stanton did do these actions," Bason said, "this court views {that} with the utmost seriousness as being a clear abuse of authority, utterly improper, and most severely to be condemned and punished," Bason said.

Stanton has denied the allegations. White, who is said to have refused Stanton's request to convert the case, has denied that Stanton put pressure on him. Inslaw is still in Chapter 11 proceedings attempting to reorganize its finances.

The judge suggested that Stanton may have tried to push Inslaw into liquidation to "curry favor" with other officials in the Justice Department at a time when the bankruptcy trustee program was being reevaluated. "He had a very strong motive to curry favor by, in effect, even perhaps taking a wink and nod as a command," Bason said. "And it could be he went beyond what was asked of him by anybody and decided that he could get {what he wanted for the trustee program} . . . by doing something that would result in -- might result in -- putting Inslaw out of business."

Bason last week refused to allow another federal bankruptcy judge to recant his testimony that Stanton had tried to force Inslaw into liquidation. Judge Cornelius Blackshear, who serves in New York, had testified in a deposition in March that he was aware that Stanton had pressured White. The next day, after meeting with Justice Department representatives, Blackshear signed an affidavit recanting much of the deposition, saying that he had been thinking of a different case.

Bason said, "There is no rule of law that I must accept a recantation and reject the original testimony. . . . In this case, Judge Blackshear's original testimony is convincing and fits in with other pieces of the puzzle that is presented by the situation."

Bason said he believes that there are "not one, but two, smoking guns" supporting Inslaw's contention that Stanton attempted to force the company into liquidation. He cited notes by an Inslaw employe and a Justice Department official on separate telephone conversations in which another department official, Jack Rugh, told them shortly after Inslaw filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 1985 that the case would be converted into a Chapter 7 proceeding.

"These were contemporaneous notes, not subject to a loss of recollection, as afflicted so many government witnesses with respect to these conversations," Bason said.

Rugh is assistant director of the executive office for U.S. attorneys, which terminated a contract with Inslaw three years ago. The Justice Department has said it terminated the contract because Inslaw failed to deliver its product to the department as promised.

Inslaw has alleged there was a vendetta against the company by Rugh's boss, C. Madison Brewer, deputy director of the executive office for U.S. attorneys, and other Justice officials, including former Deputy Attorney General D. Lowell Jensen, now a federal judge in California.

Brewer is a former Inslaw employe who was fired by the company in 1976. Jensen tried unsuccessfully during the 1970s to develop and sell a software package that competes with Inslaw's product. Both men have denied the charges.

Inslaw has asked Bason to order the removal of the bankruptcy trustee's office from Inslaw's bankruptcy proceedings. The company also is seeking punitive damages and attorneys fees from the Justice Department.