NEW YORK, JULY 29 -- The president of the National Urban League charged tonight that the Supreme Court has become "a conservative playground" and that blacks are being forced to look to the executive and legislative branches of government to protect their interests.

In a speech opening the Urban League's 80th annual convention here, John Jacob said: "As the Supreme Court becomes a conservative playground, the front-line defense of our rights will be the Congress and state and local legislators." At another point in his speech, Jacob added the executive branch to that list.

Jacob expressed doubts about 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David H. Souter, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, saying the conservative Souter falls short of the standards set by retiring Justice William J. Brennan Jr., a liberal.

"Justice Brennan's 33 years on the Supreme Court were distinguished by legal brilliance, human compassion and an inspiring belief in racial equality and social justice," Jacob said. "He retires with the respect and admiration of all Americans who believe in a living Constitution and in human rights."

He added, "It would be naive to expect the nomination of another Justice Brennan, and it is clear that Judge Souter is cut from a different mold."

Jacob also called on Bush to develop new initiatives to reduce poverty and to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1990, which is pending in Congress. Proponents of the bill said it would restore civil rights protections eroded by several recent Supreme Court rulings.

Jacob said Bush should "overrule his advisers and launch a new federal antipoverty effort."