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ities, and, therefore, our inquiry must be fair and thorough and have a firm, legal, and moral basis.
I am not here to prejudge the case, but the fact of conviction does demand that this committee and this House immediately inquire into this matter. I intend to work closely with you, Mr. Chairman, and other members of this committee in an effort to bring about a prompt and fair resolution.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The gentleman from California, Mr. Moorhead.
Mr. MOORHEAD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
What we are about here this morning is a constitutional process that is older than our republic, that finds its origin in English history. The term “impeachment” was lifted from English law. Impeachment, itself, was conceived because England's objects of impeachment for one reason or another were beyond reach of an ordinary criminal process. When our Founding Fathers adopted this English idea to the American scene, they replaced an unimpeachable king and his council with an impeachable president and civil officer. They separated impeachment from subsequent criminal prosecution so that a person impeached could no longer be put to death, as in England, and they withheld from the President power to pardon the impeached officer.
One thing is clear in our system of Government, and it was made clear right here in this room in 1974, no executive, no judicial or no legislative person by reason of his or her elevated station is above the reach of the law.
Article II, section 4, states the President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Article III, section 1, states, “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges both of the Supreme and inferior courts shall hold their offices during good behavior."
The Constitution is unclear as to the precise meaning of good behavior. What we do know is that the good behavior standard, coupled with impeachment, was intended by the framers of the Constitution to protect the independence of the judiciary and to isolate it from political or any improper influence. The degree of independence enjoyed by the members of the judiciary is unmatched in any other public office, and in the majority of cases has resulted in life tenure for Federal judges.
However, I think it is important to recognize that inherent in the independence granted to Federal judges by the Constitution, there is the potential for abuse. The strong public consensus among Members of Congress and the general public in the sensitive area with which we are dealing here today is that the vast majority of Federal judges are competent and honest. There are relatively few instances of a Federal judge failing to conform to the constitutional standard of good behavior.
However, when corruption or other misbehavior occurs, the Federal judge must be held accountable. There is no question that impeachment is a cumbersome and unwieldy process, as evidenced by the fact that in over 200 years only 54 Federal judges have been investigated, and of these, only eight judges and one justice have been impeached. Furthermore, only four judges have been removed, with the last impeachment of a Federal judge occurring over 50 years ago.
The structuring of impeachment as a difficult process was, I believe, intentional. For by so doing, the Founding Fathers provided protection for the independence of Federal judges who in many cases render unpopular decisions.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I think it is important to point out that the most important possession of our judiciary is its respect and integrity. If the people of our country lose respect for our judiciary, if the people of our country feel that they cannot obtain justice in our courts, then there is a very serious crack in the foundation of our Republic. Men and women who sit in judgment of their fellow man must be above moral or legal reproach.
I would like to assure the people in this room today that we intend to be thorough, we intend to be fair and decent, and we intend to move as swiftly as justice permits.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Kentucky.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Just very briefly, I want to commend you for your very clear and concise and excellent statement of today. You laid down the general outline of the case and of the background in which we will handle this inquiry, and I think you also did one very valuable thing on page 4 of your statement, indicating the inquiry would be restricted and would be a limited inquiry. This is not, as I understand it, to retry the case, it is not to examine the minutia of the evidence, it isn't to examine the jot and tittle of everything that has been done in all these years.
But it is to examine the two things the gentleman from Wisconsin, our distinguished chairman, has indicated, the examination of the two counts of making and filing false statements in Judge Claiborne's tax returns for 1979 and 1980, and that inquiry will assess whether the judge's conviction and incarceration constitute behavior incompatible
with the duties of a Federal officer. While no one here is prejudging the case, it is clear that the judge has been indicted, convicted, sentenced, he is currently serving a term in the penitentiary, and the question we have is whether or not that is incompatible with the duties and responsibilities of a Federal judicial officer in the scope of those two charges.
I want to salute the gentleman and to thank him for his leadership to this point and to assure him that all of us will be paying clear attention as the case is unfolded.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The gentleman from California, Mr. Moorhead.
Mr. MOORHEAD. I move pursuant to rule 11, clause 285, that the committee go into executive session to receive testimony for today and tomorrow.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The motion is not debatable. The question is on agreeing to the motion. All in favor of the motion, please say
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Opposed, “nay".
The "ayes” have it, and the motion is agreed to. Accordingly, the room will be cleared of all persons except committee members and designated staff. I understand that this will take perhaps some 15 minutes or so.
Witnesses will find, I suspect, quarters on the side, either side of the committee room, to wait to be called for testimony.
Accordingly, the committee is closed and will resume hearing in executive session.
[Whereupon, at 9:27 a.m., the subcommittee was recessed and proceeded into executive session.]
EXECUTIVE SESSION [Subcommittee and GPO staff have made necessary grammatical, spelling, and technical corrections to the official transcript. A copy of the original transcript is on file with the subcommittee.]
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:35 a.m., in room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Robert W. Kastenmeier (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Kastenmeier, Brooks, Mazzoli, Synar, Schroeder, Frank, Morrison, Moorhead, Hyde, DeWine, Kindness, and Coble.
Also present: Representatives Hughes, Fish, Sensenbrenner, and Gekas.
Subcommittee staff present: Michael J. Remington, chief counsel; Gail Higgins Fogarty; David W. Beier; Deborah Leavy, counsels; Richard Cates, special counsel; Thomas E. Mooney and Joseph V. Wolfe, associate counsels; Michael Kemp, intern; and Audrey Marcus, clerk.
Also present: M. Elaine Mielke, general counsel; Garner J. Cline, staff director; Daniel Freeman, parliamentarian; Judith Bailey and Gary Goldberger, counsels; Alan F. Coffey and Alan Slobodin, associate counsels.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The committee will come to order.
The committee is in executive session. I would caution members and other persons who are permitted to sit in on this subcommittee's executive session that the House rules specifically provide "no evidence or testimony taken in executive session may be released or used in public sessions without the consent of the committee.”
Furthermore, I will state to members that we will be proceeding following presentation of the witnesses in executive session under the 5-minute rule. As Chair I intend to yield at the outset any time I would have to our special counsel, Richard Cates. I would hope that his questioning could help focus the inquiry and I would hope, as I pointed out before, members would be aware of the scope of the inquiry in connection with questions.
May I say this about witnesses and those present in the room. The first witness will be Mr. Hendricks of the Justice Department. He is accompanied by Ms. Jan Neilson Little. I am not sure if Ms. Little herself will be testifying. I take it not, but she is very familiar with the case we are informed.
Mr. MOORHEAD. Mr. Chairman, I feel it is fine from the minority side if Mr. Cates has 5 minutes or 10 minutes if he needs it to start, but we think you should be allowed to have your 5 minutes.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. I thank the gentleman. I think that is guidance then for special counsel.
I am informed the Justice Department presentation may be 2 or 3 hours. It may be an extended period of time, I am not certain about that. Our second witness will be the Honorable Charles Wiggins, a circuit court judge, formerly a member of this committee. His presentation will be less lengthy.
The third witness will presumably be, depending on whether counsel Goodman desires to have him present testimony, Judge Harry Claiborne himself.
Now, it will be noted that the counsel for the respondent Judge Claiborne, Mr. Goodman, is present, along with co-counsel, former Senator Cannon. And that they will be present during the proceedings. We consider this essential if we in fact expect the respondent to respond in any informed manner. At least they must be present to the extent they care to be during the presentation of the prior evidence, it is assumed. I say this for the guidance of members, that Judge Claiborne will be present in this room perhaps in the next hour or so. He is on route we are informed.
That being the case, we will commence the proceedings. I will call Mr. Hendricks forward, and if he would come forward and take the oath.
Mr. Hendricks, the rules of the House and the rules of the committee are at the witness table.
Mr. Hendricks, is it possible that your colleague, Ms. Little, may respond in whole or in part to any question or say anything audibly in these proceedings?
Mr. HENDRICKS. It is possible, Mr. Chairman. Mr. KASTENMEIER. In which case, I would then take this opportunity to swear Ms. Little in under the same process.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Mr. Hendricks, you may proceed, sir. TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM C. HENDRICKS III, ESQ., DEPUTY
CHIEF, PUBLIC INTEGRITY SECTION, CRIMINAL DIVISION, U.S.
As the Chair has noted, my name is William Hendricks, and I am here this morning at the request of the subcommittee. As the Chair knows, the Department of Justice has attempted to respond to the request of the subcommittee for documentation relating to Judge Harry E. Claiborne's prosecution and subsequent conviction. In a letter dated April 4 of this year, we formally offered our assistance, and we continue to stand prepared to do whatever we can to accommodate the subcommittee's request and those of the membership of the entire committee during the course of this inquiry.
We recognize, of course, that this decision is that of the House as to whether Judge Claiborne should or should not be impeached. I am here solely for the purpose of providing you with whatever factual information I can in order to enable you to make informed recommendations in this regard.
I would therefore prefer to begin this morning with an overview of the case, a discussion of the evidence which led to the conviction of Judge Claiborne, and the facts which gave rise to that conviction, together with a brief description of the appellate record of the case, and then I would be happy to answer any questions that any of the members may have. But I would respectfully request that these questions focus on fact rather than on any opinions I may have relating to the case.
Mr. Chairman, the evidence in this case—first if I may—the convictions—there were two convictions, that is on two counts, one of them related to false statements made on Judge Claiborne's 1979 income tax returns, and the second count of which Judge Claiborne was convicted, related to false statements made in connection with his 1980 income tax returns.
If I may focus first on the 1979 income tax return. The evidence in the case, and all of the evidence I will refer to will relate to evidence in the case or other information obtained during the course of the Government's investigation. The evidence in the case was that Judge Claiborne moved to the Las Vegas, NV, area in the mid1940's, and after a period of service in the Las Vegas area he opened a law firm in the late 1940's. He, at about the time he opened his law firm, employed an individual he had previously known by the name of J. Wright, W-r-i-g-h-t, as his accountant. Mr. Wright was a public accountant. Mr. Wright was highly qualified and Mr. Wright thereafter performed the services of an accountant for Mr. Claiborne, subsequently Judge Claiborne, for the next 30 years without any break.
During this period, the late 1940's and 1950's Judge Claiborne and Mr. Wright agreed upon themselves as to a form or a means by which Mr. Wright would maintain an accounting system for Judge Claiborne, and it was roughly as follows. All bank statements of Judge Claiborne were sent by the banks to Mr. Wright. Judge Claiborne would send the receipts, which copies of receipts he would provide to clients, along with other supportive information, such as check stubs and deposits, to Mr. Wright.
Mr. Wright then on a monthly basis would take the deposit slips and he would take the deposits provided to clients and he would reconcile the two and make determination, a check register listing all checks and expenses and develop a system for identifying legal fees received by Judge Claiborne.
These exhibits in the trial for purpose of your information were included exhibits 22 and Government's exhibit 23 during the course of the trial of the case.
The evidence in the case was that at the end of every year, for purposes of tax, that Mr. Wright would assemble the 12 monthly statements which he had prepared for Judge Claiborne and that those 12 monthly summaries would be used to produce one yearly summary, which would indicate, among other things, all of Judge Claiborne's legal fee income for the year.