Roberts Gives Hints on Property, Race, Death Penalty on confirmation hearings

Roberts, treading a line between candor and caution, gave a Senate panel hints about his views on government seizure of private property, civil rights and the death penalty.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, undergoing a second day of questions on his nomination to be chief justice, said lawmakers could limit ‘eminent domain’ property seizures, blunting the impact of a June Supreme Court ruling. He said he would consider the 'real- world' impact of affirmative action and suggested agreement with a high court decision limiting death row appeals.

His answers drew praise from Republicans, including the moderate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Democrats offered muted criticism, hailing Roberts's skills as a witness even while voicing frustration at his refusal to give detailed responses on abortion, assisted suicide and other social issues.

“Life would be a lot easier if he would be more forthcoming,” Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the panel's senior Democrat, told reporters in Washington, reports Bloomberg.

According to Houston Chronicle, during a third day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Roberts rejected the notion that he would be a justice in the mold of his mentor, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, or of conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, whom President Bush has called his favorites on the bench.

"I will be my own man on the Supreme Court," Roberts said.

But Democratic senators and some of their Republican colleagues complained that Roberts' refusal to answer questions on important issues makes it difficult to determine who that man is.

"We are rolling the dice with you, judge," said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

Bush's nomination of Roberts, a federal appeals judge, is expected to clear the Republican-dominated committee next week and move to the full Senate. If confirmed as expected, he would likely join the court for its first arguments of the term on Oct. 3.

Photo: Knight Ridder Tribune

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