The Senate Judiciary Committee ended its five-day confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee David H. Souter yesterday after listening to nearly 40 witnesses.
Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said he hoped the committee would vote on Souter's nomination by the end of next week. A majority of the 14 members is expected to recommend that Souter be confirmed by the full Senate.
The Supreme Court begins its fall term Oct. 1, but the Senate probably will not act on Souter's nomination until later in the month.
Several Republican senators and Nebraska Democrat J. James Exon announced after the hearing ended that they would vote for Souter. Democrats have a 55 to 45 Senate majority.
The final witnesses included a group of law enforcement officials who endorsed Souter and a panel of civil rights attorneys who opposed his nomination.
"As law enforcement battles in the drug war and struggles with a rising tide of violent crimes nationwide, we need an anti-crime justice with the qualifications of Judge Souter," said Bob Rice, president of the National Sheriffs' Association
The civil rights attorneys said they feared Souter would not protect the rights of women and minorities.
Souter, a conservative federal judge from New Hampshire, was nominated by President Bush July 23 to replace liberal Justice William J. Brennan Jr. He testified for three days, followed by two days of testimony by witnesses.
Tuesday, the National Organization for Women, the Planned Parenthood Federation and the National Abortion Rights Action League urged the committee to reject Souter because they feared he would vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.