THE AMERICAN Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has given Judge Anthony Kennedy its highest rating. By unanimous vote the panel found the president's Supreme Court nominee to be "well qualified." This is a finding that the judge meets the highest standard of professional competence, judicial temperament and integrity and that in the judgment of his peers in the legal profession, he is among the best available for appointment to the high court.

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on Judge Kennedy's nomination. One of the first witnesses will be Judge Harold Tyler, president of the ABA, who will present this finding to the committee and explain how it was reached. Because the judgment was favorable and unanimous, this should not be difficult, but because this particular evaluation carries such weight with the Senate, the process should be examined each time a recommendation is made. This is especially true when the ABA committee is divided and questions properly arise as to the nature of the lawyers' disagreement. The ABA provides a valuable service in advising the Senate on a nominee's professional qualifications, but its role in the confirmation process is, and should be, limited.

As for the other witnesses this week, no fireworks are expected. With the exception of the National Organization for Women, none of the groups that fought the nomination of Judge Robert Bork has spoken out in opposition to Judge Kennedy. Leaders of some of these organizations say they will not make a final decision until they have heard the nominee's own testimony, at which time they may ask for an opportunity to be heard.

Committee staffers have reviewed all 400 of Judge Kennedy's opinions, and questions are expected on some, particularly with regard to criminal law and race and gender discrimination. Broader inquiries on judicial philosophy and Judge Kennedy's club memberships will also be made. In the absence of some new revelation or surprising testimony, however, the nomination appears to be in good shape.