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Souter Tells Senate Panel He’s Sensitive to Minority Concerns

U.S. Supreme Court nominee David Souter told a Senate panel Thursday that he is sensitive about discrimination against minorities, despite his privileged background.

Souter, a judge on the 1st U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had learned about discrimination from two of his closest friends, both of whom were attending the opening day of hearings on whether to confirm his appointment.

He said one of those friends was Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), who had told him about the discrimination he suffered growing up Jewish.

The other was Thomas Rath, a New Hampshire lawyer who had told him that when his grandfather immigrated from Ireland, he found that many jobs in Boston were advertised with the slogan “No Irish need apply.”

Souter spent a great deal of the time during the hearing denying claims that he is too provincial to understand the problems of minorities, the poor and others.

He said that as a lawyer, then as a trial judge and finally as an appeals court judge, he had dealt with all kinds of people and problems that exist throughout the United States.

Souter was nominated by President Bush to succeed Justice William Brennan, who resigned from the high court suddenly in July.

The confirmation hearings, which focused Thursday on the judge’s views on abortion, are expected to continue into next week.

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