Traditionally the American Bar Association's judicial qualifications committee has played a little-noticed role in the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, placing the legal profession's imprimatur on nominees and sending them on their way to Senate approval.

When it came to considering Robert H. Bork, the ABA found itself in the midst of some unaccustomed controversy. Although the committee gave Bork its highest rating of "well qualified," the vote was not unanimous. Of the committee's 15 members, 10 voted for the rating, four described Bork as "not qualified" and one member voted that he was "not opposed" to the nomination.

Both Bork's opponents and supporters seized on the vote, with the Justice Department pointing out that he had in fact won the ABA's approval and the opponents citing the dissenting votes as evidence of major concerns on the part of an establishment group.

This week the controversy over the committee and its members erupted publicly when Harold Tyler, the committee chairman, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a leading Bork supporter, sharply criticized the dissenters, saying they opposed the nomination for "basically political reasons" and adding that several of them are liberals or affiliated with civil rights groups, particularly the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Tyler responded by defending the integrity of the four members who voted Bork "not qualified," testifying that, "I think they acted in good faith."

Hatch's charge, voiced by other conservatives in the aftermath of the endorsement, focused attention on the 15 men who make up the committee and their backgrounds.

Liberals have argued that the same committee has voted unanimously to approve conservative judges, including Antonin Scalia, who was confirmed last fall for a Supreme Court judgeship, and William H. Rehnquist, who was confirmed as chief justice. They say that the committee is balanced with conservatives and liberals, and that Hatch himself has praised the committee when its findings have pleased him.

They have pointed particularly to Hatch's statement last fall during the Scalia confirmation hearing when he said to several members of the ABA committee: "You deserve the highest praise . . . . I cannot see any way that there was any politics or partisanship, or preferences, or any other kind of an approach that would be criticizable . . . . I want to compliment you. You have done this committee, the U.S. Senate and the country a great service."

When the history of Bork's nomination is written, the ABA committee members are likely to merit at least a footnote. Here is a look at who they are, beginning with the four identified by sources as having voted against Bork: Jerome J. Shestack of Philadelphia, singled out by Hatch for criticism. He is a Democrat who served during the Carter administration as U.S. representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He is a former director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. He also served as a member of the Democratic National Committee's Finance Committee in 1975.

Shestack said that at the request of a client he made a contribution last March to the presidential campaign of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has said he opposes Bork. Later, Shestack agreed to become a member of a national committee of lawyers supporting Biden.

"I mentioned it to the chairman {Tyler} and he didn't see any problem," Shestack said. He said politics did not play a part in his decision on Bork. John D. Lane of the District, a Democrat recently returned to the committee. Last year, he was not reappointed to a second three-year term after conservatives accused the committee of unfairly derailing conservative candidates. ABA sources said Lane had angered conservatives by aggressively questioning the qualifications of some administration candidates.

But D.C. Bar Association President Paul Freidman defended Lane, saying he had done a "terrific and thorough job." He was replaced by D.C. lawyer James Bierbower, then returned to the committee when a new position opened up. Joan Hall of Chicago, a longtime member and official of the Chicago branch of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He was an official of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, which provides legal services for the poor. Sam Williams of Los Angeles, a Democrat and a former president of the California bar association. He is a close friend and adviser of Mayor Tom Bradley, and is considered the most influential black lawyer in the city's predominantly white legal community.

(Sketches of the committee's other members follow. It could not be determined which of them voted "not opposed" to the Bork nomination.) Harold R. Tyler Jr. of New York, head of the ABA committee, a Republican who has never been especially active in party politics. He is a former federal judge, appointed in 1962 by President Kennedy. He turned down an offer in 1973 to become the special Watergate prosecutor but two years later agreed to become deputy attorney general in the Ford administration. There, he served for a time as Bork's boss while Bork was solicitor general. Tyler is also a director and former cochairman of the liberal Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. J. David Andrews of Seattle, who said he has voted for both Democrats and Republicans but considers himself "more Republican." He said he once worked on a Nixon campaign but belongs to no political organizations. "I'm pretty vanilla," he said.

James Bierbower of the District, a conservative who has had a number of clients from Republican administrations. During Watergate, he represented former Nixon administration official Jeb Stuart Magruder. More recently, he represented Rita Lavelle, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency's toxic waste program, in her perjury trial, and James C. Sanders, former head of the Small Business Administration, during his testimony on the Wedtech scandal.

Bierbower served as president of the D.C. Bar in the early 1980s and was a leader of a successful campaign to end the bar's mandatory pro bono program. James A. Clark of Denver, who declined to discuss his political affiliation. John C. Elam of Columbus, Ohio, a Democrat who has never held a political job. James A. Howard of Norfolk who declined to discuss his political affiliation. James W. Hewitt of Lincoln, Neb., a Republican. Ralph I. Lancaster, a Republican from Portland, Maine. He represented the Republican Party in 1971 against a legal attack by the Common Cause lobbying organization charging both the Republican and Democratic parties with widespread violations of campaign finance laws. Lloyd Lochridge of Austin, Tex., who describes himself as an independent who is not personally political. He said that he had assisted on the campaigns of two friends, both Democrats. One campaign was 30 to 35 years ago and the other was 15 to 20 years ago. M. Roland Nachman Jr. of Montgomery, Ala., who calls himself a Democrat although there is no party registration in Alabama. He said his last major involvement in politics occurred in 1956 when he worked on the Adlai Stevenson campaign. "After it was over, we both went back to the practice of law," he noted. William E. Willis of New York, who said he is an independent who votes for Republicans and Democrats and has never been personally involved in politics. During committee deliberations, he said members are often unaware of the political affiliations of the nominees.Staff researcher Michelle Hall contributed to this report.