The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning finished the public questioning of Chief Justice nominee John Roberts.
After three rounds of questioning, Democrats continued to express frustration with Roberts' lack of direct answers on his positions on many issues — such as civil rights, abortion, affirmative action — likely to come before the Supreme Court. Though Republicans on the panel have also probed Roberts on end-of-life decisions and other controversial issues, they have remained strongly supportive of his candidacy for chief justice.
As a lawyer, Roberts has taken positions representing both sides of such hot-button issues as employment discrimination against gays, environmental protections and affirmative action. Throughout the hearings, Roberts has repeatedly told the Senate panel that his positions in legal briefs reflected not his personal views but the interests of his clients. During Thursday morning's additional round of questioning, which was specifically requested by Democrats, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) pressed Roberts on where his loyalties truly lie.
"If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, then the little guy's going to win in the court before me," Roberts said. "But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well then the big guy's going to win because my obligation is to the Constitution."
Hear highlights from Thursday's proceedings. The morning's final round of questioning consisted solely of inquiries from Senate Democrats. The panel spent Thursday afternoon hearing testimony in open session from outside witnesses:
Special Coverage: Thursday Wrap-Up (50 min. audio file)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asks Roberts about Congress' authority to stop a war.
Georgetown Law School professor Peter Edelman says Roberts is 'far more radically conservative than Judge Bork.' (Bork is a conservative legal scholar whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected in 1987).
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) asks Roberts about what in his record might give minorities 'some sense of hope.'
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) notes that an analysis of Roberts' rulings concludes he would be a 'reliable' vote for corporations. Roberts rejects that conclusion, saying the analysis was based on too small a sample.
Roberts tells Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), 'I'm not an ideologue.'
Noting Roberts' pro-bono legal work to help a homosexual rights group, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) asks the nominee whether he would have represented the other side. Roberts says, 'I probably would have.'
Responding to a question from Durbin about his core values, Robert says, 'My obligation is to the Constitution.'
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a leader of the civil rights movement, tells the panel: "I fear that if Judge Roberts is confirmed to be the chief justice of the United States, the Supreme Court will no longer hear the people's cries for justice.'
Former federal Judge Nathaniel Jones says that 'serious questions have been raised' about Roberts' commitment to civil rights.
Judge Denise Posse-Blanco Lindberg, a state court judge in Utah, defends Roberts for positions he has taken on behalf of clients.
Beverly Jones, a disabled woman, worries about what she sees as Roberts' 'narrow interpretation' of the Americans with Disabilities Act.