[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] will begin its confirmation hearings Monday for John Roberts [JURIST news archive], nominated [JURIST report] by President Bush to serve as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States in the wake of the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist [JURIST news archive]. The hearings will mark the first US Supreme Court [official website] confirmation hearing in 11 years since former President Bill Clinton's successful nomination of Justice Stephen Breyer [Oyez backgrounder] in 1994. If the nomination is successful, Roberts will begin work when the Court's new term commences on October 3. Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website; JURIST news archive] has said that Roberts should be prepared for questions on several hot topics, including his views on the precedential effects of Roe v. Wade [opinion], the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website], the panel's highest ranking Democrat, has joined calls for increased scrutiny [JURIST report] of the nomination, noting that the hearing "is the only opportunity for the American people to examine what kind of justice John Roberts will dispense if promoted to the Supreme Court." Reuters has more. Monday's hearing [witness list] begins at 12 Noon ET; the Judiciary Committee offers a live webcast.