Although Supreme Court nominee David H. Souter's confirmation seems assured, there still is uncertainty on what kind of high court justice he would be or what historic role he would play.

Would he bolster the court's slim conservative majority, or would Souter prove to be a moderate whose pivotal vote in key cases might be up for grabs?The high stakes riding on the answer to that question account for the intense scrutiny President Bush's selection of Souter attracted.

"It would not matter who was nominated at this moment in our history," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., said of the controversy swirling about Souter as his confirmation hearings concluded Wednesday.

The next justice will join a court confronting "a number of significant decisions that are now 4-4," Biden said.

The hearings focused on divisive issues including abortion, civil rights, church-state relations and free speech.

Where would Souter fit in?

"It's difficult to put him in anybody's camp," Nan Aron of the liberal Alliance for Justice said in an interview.

The difficulty, in part, arises from the differences between Souter's rec-ord of public service and the testimony he offered in three days before Biden's committee.