Judge O'Connor: avoiding labels

US Supreme Court nominee Sandra Day O'Connor is refusing to paint herself into a corner on several controversial legal issues. In the second day of her Senate confirmation hearings, she continued to dodge efforts to forecast how she might rule on abortion, preventive detention of accused criminals, or school busing.

At one point, a frustrated Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D) of Delaware told her: "Judge, I'm going to vote for you, and I think you'll make a good [Justice]. But I'm a little disturbed about your reluctance to answer any questions." Sen. Biden touched off applause later when he lectured her. "Don't lock yourself up" after confirmation to the Supreme Court, he told her. "You have an obligation to women to speak out" on women's rights.

O'Connor, sitting poised under bright television lights for questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee, stedfastly refused to give her legal opinions about most issues. Citing earlier confirmation hearings as precedents, she said it would not be proper to speak on issues that might show up in cases in the high court.

Pushed by Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R) of Alabama on the aborttion issue, she repeated that she found it "personally" offensive, but added, "we are obligated to recognize that others have different views." She also said that she was "concerned about the extent of public concern about that issue."

Although she refused to predict how she might rule in future Supreme Court cases, the Arizona Appeals Court judge did offer some personal opinions on legal issues:

* O'Connor said that the so-called Miranda ruling, which requires officials to warn suspects continue to give statements even when told of their rights.

* She expressed concern about the effects of the "exclusionary rule" by which evidence obtained illegally is excluded from criminal trials. That has proved damaging, especially in drug cases, she said, citing her state trial court experience.

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