Witnesses will resume testifying Friday at Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. They began their testimony Thursday, after Judge Alito completed three days of testimony.
The first witness to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee was Stephen Tober, chairman of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, whose organization gave Judge Samuel Alito its highest rating, well qualified for the Supreme Court. "His integrity, his professional competence, and his judicial temperament are indeed found to be of the highest standing," he said.
Some 30 witnesses are testifying at the hearing. Republicans have called half of them, and they are all expected to express support for the nomination.
The rest of the witnesses, called by the Democrats, are expected to testify in opposition to the nomination. They include representatives of abortion rights and civil rights groups.
Democrats have expressed concern with Alito's judicial record, saying it suggests the nominee, if confirmed, would try to erode abortion rights and minority rights.
As the nominee was completing his testimony, Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the average American has a hard time getting a fair shake in Alito's courtroom. "In case after case we see legal contortion, inconsistent reasoning to bend over backwards to help the powerful," he said.
But, in an exchange with Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, Alito sought to assure lawmakers that he is fair and impartial, and would continue to be so on the high court, if confirmed.
Schumer: Judge Alito, I assume you believe you will be able to be fair in every case that comes before you on the Supreme Court?
Alito: I have no reason to believe that I will not be, I certainly will.
Schumer: You do not believe you prejudged any legal or constitutional issue?
Alito: I do not believe that I have.
Schumer: You will take care to apply the rules of law and procedure equally and even-handedly, no matter whom the parties are, prosecution or defense?
Alito: I certainly will, Senator, yes.
The chairman of the committee, Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, praised Alito's stamina during the hearings. "I have been handed statistics which show that you have been questioned for about 18 hours, a number of questions approximating some 700," he said.
Despite likely opposition from Democrats, Alito is expected to be confirmed by the Republican-led Senate later this month. He would succeed the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor, who is considered a centrist and who often cast the deciding vote in five-to-four rulings on controversial cases.