Senate leaders reached an agreement yesterday to hold confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr. in early September as both sides continued poring through boxes of Judge Robert’s old legal papers.
Hearings will begin Sept. 6, and likely run for the entire week, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, announced yesterday. The schedule should allow the committee to vote on Judge Roberts on Sept. 15, giving the full Senate two weeks to debate the nomination on the floor and confirm him by the Oct. 3 start of the Supreme Court term.
Shortly after the announcement was made, the White House officially sent Judge Roberts’ nomination to the Senate.
During the next five weeks, both sides will continue reading the 75,000 pages of records the White House sent the Senate earlier this week from Judge Roberts’ time working as a lawyer in the Reagan administration. Already, both sides are starting to get a clearer picture of what kind of justice Judge Roberts might be.
Conservatives say they are gratified to read that Judge Roberts is as conservative as they had hoped, and liberals are growing concerned that his humble demeanor belies a hostility toward many of their most cherished laws.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee, told a gathering of reporters this week that some of Judge Roberts’ memos while working the White House counsel’s office under President Reagan “raised concerns” about his views of several Democrat victories such as the Voting Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Yesterday, Mr. Kennedy marked the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with a speech on the Senate floor.
“It is vital for the Senate to be sure that any justice confirmed to the Supreme Court understands the act’s importance and respects the power of Congress to protect the right to vote,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We’ve recently received documents that show Judge Roberts had a role in opposing efforts to strengthen the act in 1982, and I intend to question him about that during the hearings to learn more about his views.”
Former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, called Judge Roberts “a partisan for conservative causes.” Mr. Edwards, who sat on the Judiciary Committee, voted two years ago to confirm Judge Roberts to his current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Meanwhile, conservatives such as Manuel Miranda, chairman of the Third Branch Conference, have been reading the memos with equal interest.
In a Wall Street Journal online column yesterday, Mr. Miranda said one sentiment is shared among conservatives after reading the memos: “What a relief. Judge Roberts’s writings as a young lawyer show him to be a solid constitutionalist.”
As more Senate Democrats meet privately with Judge Roberts, his confirmation appears more likely.
Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said this week he sees nothing “disturbing” about Mr. Roberts’ record. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, who met Mr. Roberts earlier this week, told reporters, “I was so pleased to meet such an outstanding nominee.”
This story is based in part on wire service reports