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Alito hearings open with calls for fair process, vows for tough questioning

[JURIST] Confirmation hearings for US Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito [JURIST news archive] began Monday with Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] promising a "full, fair and dignified hearing," and Senate Democrats vowing to ask tough questions about Alito's stance on abortion, the right of privacy, constitutional powers, and equal rights. The hearings started with opening statements by the committee's 18 members including remarks [text] by the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website]:

The challenge for Judge Alito in the course of these hearings is to demonstrate that he will protect the rights and liberties of all Americans and serve as an effective check on government overreaching. The president has not helped his cause by withdrawing his earlier nomination of Harriet Miers in the face of criticism from an extreme faction of his own party.
Prior to the start of the hearings, President Bush called for a fair process [press release] saying that Alito has "the intellect necessary to bring a lot of class to that court. He's got a judicial temperament necessary to make sure that the court is a body that interprets the law and doesn't try to write the law." Alito is scheduled to make his opening statement later Monday afternoon, and questioning will begin Tuesday. Specter is anticipating a January 17 final vote by the committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee has further materials on today's Alito hearing. AP has more.

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