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Roberts hearings end; vote expected soon

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] concluded its four days of confirmation hearings for Chief Justice nominee John Roberts [JURIST news archive] late Thursday, with closing remarks [SCOTUSblog report] from committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and ranking Democrat Pat Leahy (D-VT). Following the conclusion of Roberts' own testimony [JURIST report] earlier in the day, the committee heard from a wide range of other witnesses [witness list and prepared testimony] on the nomination, including Stephen Tober, chairman of the ABA's standing committee on the federal judiciary. The American Bar Association had previously rated Roberts as "well qualified" [JURIST report], its top grade, upon his nomination as associate justice. Tober testified [prepared statement] that the ABA rated Roberts as "well qualified" for the position of Chief Justice, saying the ABA is "fully satisfied" that "Judge Roberts meets the highest standards required for service on the United States Supreme Court as its Chief Justice."

In other testimony Thursday, Peter Kirsanow [official profile], a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights [official website], defended Roberts from criticism on civil rights issues [JURIST report]. Kirsanow said [prepared statement] "Our examination reveals that Judge Roberts' approach to civil rights issues is consistent with generally accepted textual interpretation of the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions as well as governing precedent... Some aspects of Judge Roberts' record on civil rights have been mischaracterized and many of the criticisms are misplaced." Other witnesses took issue with the administration's refusals to turn over certain documents relating to Roberts' prior work experience and complained that Roberts was too vague on the abortion issue. Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center [official website], testified [prepared statement; supplemental report, PDF] that while "Roberts followed an unmistakable pattern of developing, advancing and embracing legal arguments and positions that would undermine women's most basic legal rights." During the hearings, Roberts refused to say [JURIST report] if he would reverse Roe v. Wade, following prior nominees' precedent of declining to prejudge cases, though he did call the ruling "settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis."

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on whether to recommend Roberts as Chief Justice next Thursday, with a vote by the full Senate planned for the week of September 26. Democrats seemed to remain undecided on how they will vote. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said he was "more confused" about the nomination, but stopped short of announcing a vote against Roberts. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said he doubted if Roberts "really recognizes in his heart and his soul the extraordinary march to progress in the last 50 years", referring to the civil rights questions surrounding his nomination, but also didn't formally announce a position. AP has more.

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