By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, conservative federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, beginning on March 20, the panel's Republican chairman said on Thursday.
Senator Chuck Grassley, who will oversee the proceedings as head of the Judiciary Committee, said the hearing is likely to last three to four days.
Gorsuch, nominated by Trump on Jan. 31, will make his opening statement on March 20 along with statements from members of the committee, and the nominee will face questions from senators the second day, Grassley said. There will also be testimony from outside legal experts.
Supreme Court nominees require Senate confirmation for the lifetime job on the nine-justice court. With four liberals and four conservatives now on the court, Gorsuch's confirmation would restore the conservative majority that had existed for decades until the February 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
If the hearing goes smoothly and the full Senate votes to confirm him soon afterward, Gorsuch could be on the court before the end of the court's current term in June.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)