Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr. appeared determined Monday to stay above the political fray during his confirmation, implicitly deflecting charges that he is a conservative ideologue by telling the Senate that “a judge can’t have any agenda” in resolving cases.

“A judge can’t have any preferred outcome in any particular case, and a judge certainly doesn’t have a client,” Alito said in his opening statement on the first day of a week of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The judge’s only obligation — and it’s a solemn obligation — is to the rule of law. And what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.”