[JURIST] As US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] confirmation hearings commenced Monday [JURIST report] for nominee John Roberts [JURIST news archive], Democrats and Republicans sparred over the appropriateness of questioning Roberts about controversial issues such as privacy rights and abortion. Roberts, who was 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], was advised [prepared statement] by Senator John Cornyn, (R-TX) [official website] to "decline to answer any question you feel would compromise your ability to do your job." Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) [official website] countered [prepared statement] that the Senate must investigate whether Roberts "has demonstrated a commitment to the constitutional principles that have been so vital in advancing fairness, decency and equal opportunity in our society." Roberts answers to questions about divisive topics and his record as a young conservative lawyer in two Republican administrations could prove critical to the eventual confirmation vote in the full Senate, expected by the end of September, shortly before the Supreme Court's October term begins. AP has more.