Paul J. Curran, the 46-year-old New York City attorney named yesterday as special counsel in the Carter warehouse probe, gets high marks from former associates.

"That's a terrific choice," said John R. Wing, who was a prosecutor under Curran when he was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Another attorney who worked for Curran when he was U.S. attorney from 1973 to 1975 views his former boss as essentially apolitical where investigations are concerned.

"Anyone who looks to see whether he's Republican or Deomcratic is missing the point," said John Gross, who is now in private practice in New York. "What he is is professional."

Curran, a Republican, was appointed U.S. attorney by President Nixon. Not long after, he oversaw the prosecution by his office of two top figures in the Nixon administration.

His staff prosecuted former attorney general John Mitchell and Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans for allegedly taking a $200,000 illegal campaign contribution from fugitive financier Robert Vesco. Vesco is still a missing defendant in the case; Mitchell and Stans were acquitted in April 1974.

The Southern District of New York is the premier U.S. attorney's office in the country. Under a succession of U.S. attorneys, it has maintained a crack staff which specializes in narcotics, official corruption and whitecollar crime cases.

At a press conference yesterday, Curran reflected the traditional pride of that office. "People from the Justice Department of Washington used to call us the Department of Justice for the Southern District of New York. They didn't say that in a particularly endearing sense," he said.

Curran was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District in the late 1950s, when Robert Morgenthau headed the office. Morgenthau, now Manhattan district attorney, yesterday called Curran "a first-rate person in every respect. I think it's an excellent appointment."

Prosuectors in the Southern District brought a wide variety of criminal cases while Curran was in charge. Some of them he handled personally.

Former congressman Bertram Podell, a Brooklyn Democrat, was sent to jail for six months for accepting a $41,000 bribe. Bernard Bergman, who ran a notorious nursing home empire, was convicted of Medicaid fraud.

Curran and his staff also convicted 41 New York attorneys as well as the district attorney of Orange County, N.Y., and the head of the city's Model Cities program.

Curran and his attorneys also obtained convictions of numerous New York City police officers for corruption, including the head of the force's lite Special Investigation Unit. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

But cleasrly, Curran views as his greatest victory the 1973 narcotics conviction of Carmine Tramunti, the reputed head of a powerful New York City crime family.

In 1968, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefelloer appointed Curran to head the New York Commission of Investigation, the state's highest investigative body. In Curran's five years there, the commission probed such areas as narcotics enforcement in New York City and organized crime infiltration of the city's airports.

Curran is a member of the New York City & Handler where he says he handles mostly civil litigation.

On hand for yesterday's press conference at the Justice Department was Currant's daughter, Mary Lou, who is a senior at Trinity College here. Another daughter, Cathie -- the Currans have seven children -- is a sophomore at Georgetwon University.

Curran graduated from Georgetwon University in 1953 and Fordahm Law School in 1956. The Curran family lives in Scarsdale.