Transcript: House Judiciary Committee
SPEAKERS: U.S. REPRESENTATIVE HENRY J. HYDE (R-IL), CHAIRMAN
HYDE: Today the committee holds an oversight hearing on the consequences of perjury and related crimes, like subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, misprision and criminal contempt. All of these crimes thwart the proper workings of the justice system.
We hold this hearing because Rule 10 of the House of Representatives requires us to exercise continuing oversight over the -- quote -- "application, administration, execution and effectiveness" -- close quote -- of the laws under our jurisdiction.
Of particular relevance here, we have jurisdiction over the judicial system and the criminal code. Commentators of all types have fiercely debated the gravity of these crimes in recent months.
Otherwise responsible and thoughtful people have argued they are not so serious -- particularly when they occur in civil case or when they relate to hiding private sexual matters.
Indeed, some have even suggested that being a gentleman requires one to lie under oath about sex. By their very nature, these kinds of crimes attack the integrity of the judicial system. Indeed, that's why they are crimes.
To argue that in certain instances these crimes mean little is to say that our judicial system means little. I reject that notion.
Remember the fundamentals: We have a judicial system, because it is fairer and more civilized to settle disputes through judicial means rather than settle them through brute force -- trial by combat.
When brute force prevails, the strong win and the weak lose -- an efficient method, but hardly a just one. It is particularly disturbing that many who generally claim to represent the weak now argue that the powerful should be allowed a pass when they break the rules. There is nothing just or fair in a double standard.
We make perjury, subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering crimes because a judicial system can only succeed if its procedures expose the truth. If citizens are allowed to lie with impunity or encourage others to tell false stories or hide evidence, judges and juries cannot reach just results.
At that point, the courtroom becomes an arena for artful liars and the jury a mere focus group choosing between alternative fictions. So for my friends who think that perjury, lying and deceit are in some circumstances acceptable and undeserving of punishment I respectfully disagree.
Every citizen is entitled to her day in court to have her claims considered under the rule of law and free from these abhorrent acts. That applies no matter how small or unpopular or unimportant that person is and no matter how great or popular or powerful her opponent is.
Chief Justice Burger resoundingly affirmed the seriousness of perjury when he wrote -- and I quote -- "In the constitutional process of securing a witness' testimony, perjury simply has no place whatever."
Perjured testimony is an obvious and flagrant affront to the basic concepts of judicial proceedings. Effective restraints against this type of egregious offense are therefore imperative.
The power of subpoena -- broad as it is -- and the power of contempt for refusing to answer -- drastic as that is -- and even the solemnity of the oath cannot ensure truthful answers. Hence, Congress has made the giving of false answers a criminal act punishable by severe penalties. In no other way can criminal conduct be flushed into the open where the law can deal with it.
Similarly, our cases have consistently -- indeed without exception -- allowed sanctions for false statement or perjury.
They have done so even in instances where the perjurer complained that the government exceeded its constitutional powers in making the inquiry. Citation -- United States versus Mandujano, 425 U.S., 1976.
Even when the weak dare to confront the strong, the truth is not trivial. Playing by the rules is not trivial. The whole history of our civilization tells us that justice is not trivial.
Lying poisons justice. If we are to defend justice and the rule of law, lying must have consequences. We will explore the impact of lying on the rule of law and the implications of the dto welcome.
With that, I will recognize Mr. Conyers for an opening statement, and after Mr. Conyers, we will go to our witnesses who are at the table. And all other members, if they have an opening statement, without objection, it will be included in the record at this point.
CONYERS: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, and the distinguished judges, professors and lawyers who are our primary witnesses today.
Now that we are three months into the third impeachment inquiry in the nation's history I believe we ought to take stock of what this committee has done and where we're going.
During the first two months, all the committee did was to dump salacious grand jury material onto the Internet. The third month was spent hearing an incredibly one-sided presentation from the prosecutor having no first-hand knowledge of the facts, and deposing two witnesses that have a peripheral relationship, at best, to the independent counsel's referral.
Now once again, the committee is floundering into another unrelated area. Last evening, we were informed that the committee would now widen its investigation into campaign finance matters. With that announcement, this committee now amazingly proposes to transform itself into the discredited Burton committee.
Campaign finance has no relationship to the Starr referral. And amazingly, this committee is now subpoenaing both the president of the United States and the attorney general of the United States to provide documents that they don't have authority to provide without a court order, whose criteria this committee is yet to even satisfy.
Now there are other flaws with our process at this time -- perhaps fatal flaws.
Ten days away from a proposed vote on articles of impeachment, and the American people and the president still don't know what the charges are. Neither do we.
Well, Mr. Chairman, we cannot play hide and seek when you propose to overturn a national election. This close to such a monumental vote in the committee you should be laying your cards on the table for ourselves and the American people.
And whether you like it or not, one week away from such a monumental vote is no time to commence an entirely new area of investigation into campaign finance and to transform this committee into the Burton committee.
The American people and Democrats and others believe that the president's conduct was bad, but not impeachable.
Now, for today's hearings, I believe that there is some important discussion on perjury to be gleaned from some of our experienced witnesses here, but don't we all know that perjury is serious regardless of the underlying matter? We know that people go to jail when they perjure themselves, including -- including civil proceedings. You learn that in about the first year of criminal procedure, but we're not teaching a criminal procedure course, rather, we, or more aptly, you, the Republican majority in this committee, are proposing, if Ihis hearing and in the constitutional scholars' community. That's the point that really diminishes so much from this hearing.
Now, parenthetically, I for one think that while the president misled the country and his family, the legal case of perjury against him isn't particularly strong, and most likely would never have been pursued had he not been a president, chased by a zealous prosecutor like Kenneth W. Starr. Why? Because his answers regarding Monica Lewinsky in the context of the Paula Jones litigation may not even meet the materiality test, and were, in fact, later excluded from the Paula Jones litigation entirely by a judge who referred to them as not relevant.
Second, no one has proven that the president's statements regarding Ms. Lewinsky at the Paula Jones deposition and grand jury appearance were not technically true. If so, they cannot possibly be grounds for perjury.
And finally, I'm concerned that the two judges appearing here today on behalf of the Republican majority should be very cautious because they may violate the spirit if not the letter of the judicial cannons, which I have in my -- right here, by commenting on an ongoing case.
Please, members of the Judiciary, be careful.
Mr. Chairman, Henry Hyde, I am deeply saddened by what this process is becoming.
HYDE: Thank you.
Our first witness is Ms. Pam Parsons of Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Parsons holds bachelors and masters degree from Brigham Young University. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she was one of the most successful women's basketball coaches in the country , coaching at Old Dominion University and the University of South Carolina.
In 1984, Ms. Parsons pled guilty to a federal perjury charge based on her having given false testimony about a sexual relationship during a civil case.
Our second witness is Dr. Barbara Battalino of Los Osos, California. Dr. Battalino is a graduate of the college of Mount St. Vincent, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Honoman (ph) University and La Salle University law school. She is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, a board certified psychiatrist, and a lawyer. She has also been a high school teacher.
In 1998, the Clinton administration brought obstruction of justice charges against Dr. Battalino based on her having given false testimony about a sexual relationship during a civil case. 99 Dr. Battalino pled guilty to the charge and is currently serving a sentence of six months home detention.
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House Judiciary Committee