Senate questions Roberts in confirmation hearings

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Judge John G. Roberts.

John Roberts sat before the United States Senate Wednesday in his third day of confirmation hearings. Members of the nation's highest legislative house questioned him on his ideology, deciding whether they should confirm his appointment as Chief Justice.

Roberts flatly refused to say about when he believes life begins, an important question when considering the ethics of abortion, saying that it would be unethical to comment on the specifics of likely cases. He did, however, reiterate his earlier statement that Roe v. Wade was the "settled law of the land", emphasizing the importance of consistent Supreme Court rulings. He also confirmed that he believed in the implied right to privacy which the Roe decision depended upon.

Senator Jeff Sessions asked Roberts about his opinion of yesterday's California ruling against the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Alliegance, which is recited daily at most public schools. Roberts noted that the Supreme Court has previously been inconsistent in its application of the establishment clause and that it should try to correct the situation, but didn't hint at his stance on the issue.

Asked about the recent Kelo v. New London ruling, a case involving the government's power to seize property, Roberts called on state and federal legislatures to limit the power of local governments: "The court was saying there is this power, and it is up to the legislature to decide if this power is available."

Senator Patrick Leahy inquired if Roberts believed the President had war powers allowing him to torture prisoners. "I believe no one is above the law in our system," Roberts replied.

Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed frustration at what they see as Roberts dodging their questions, but commentators expressed irony at the complaint; as one letter-writer to a California newspaper noted, "When is the last time that you heard one of those politicians give a direct answer to a specific question?"