Defying efforts to keep him away, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is confronting a black lawyers' group - perhaps the most hostile audience he's met since his stormy Senate confirmation hearings seven years ago.

Anticipating Thomas' speech to the National Bar Association Wed-nes-day, New York lawyer Ma-lik Sha-bazz called him "one of the greatest traitors in the history of our people."He should be denounced . . . ostracized," Shabazz told an applauding crowd of young lawyers Tuesday.

Thomas, the only black on the high court, has enraged traditional civil rights groups with his staunch-ly conservative opposition to affirmative action and race-based redistricting efforts to boost minority voters' clout.

"Feelings about Justice Thomas and his record run deep in our organization," said Randy Jones, a federal prosecutor from San Diego. "We are committed to doing everything in our power to save affirmative action."

Thomas was invited by Louisiana Supreme Court Judge Ber-net-te Johnson to speak to the association's Judicial Council, a group of state and federal judges. But others in the council's leadership later told him he was not welcome.

Thomas decided to attend anyway.

Leaders of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP held a news conference Wednesday to criticize Thom-as.