Sunday, September 04, 2005

Civil rights pioneer to testify at Roberts' hearing


Civil rights pioneer to testify at Roberts' hearing

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A civil rights pioneer along with a key figure in the scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon will be among the witnesses called by Democrats at U.S Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' confirmation hearing next week, aides said on Friday.

They said Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was young leader for civil rights in the 1960s, will testify at the hearing by the Republican-led U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Also set to testify at the invitation of Democrats is John Dean, who served as Nixon's White House counsel. Dean was a key witness at Senate Watergate hearings into abuse of power that helped lead to Nixon's resignation in August 1974.

Since 2000, Dean has written an online column on law and politics and is a visiting scholar at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California.

Thirteen other Democratic witnesses will include: Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration; Reginald Turner, president of the National Bar Association, and Roderick Jackson, a high school teacher and basketball coach in Alabama, aides said.

In a statement, Democrats described their witnesses as "national leaders and courageous Americans, who represent many of the vital issues facing the nation today, including civil rights, women's and disability rights, Americans' right to privacy, and the importance of an open government that serves the interests of the American people."

No Senate Democrat has announced opposition to Roberts in advance of the hearing, set to begin on Tuesday.

But many Democrats have voiced concerns about Roberts' commitment to civil rights and women rights, based largely on memos he wrote while a lawyer two decades ago in the Reagan administration.

Republicans began unveiling the names of their 15 witnesses on Thursday. They include Dick Thornburgh, an attorney general in the Reagan administration and in the first Bush administration, and two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Jennifer Braceras and Peter Kirsanow.

Together, these witnesses are expected to provide sharply opposing views of President George W. Bush's nomination of Roberts to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Friday released another 18,000 pages of documents stemming from Roberts' work in the administration. The library said the vast majority of the materials were not written by Roberts or duplicated previously released 50,000 pages of documents.

The outside witnesses are expected to testify on next Friday, following at least two days of public questioning of Roberts, a federal appeals court judge the past two years.