It’s been over 40 years since I first took a bar exam. And over those four decades I met some very bad attorneys. Some of them were lazy. Others were simply dishonest. Yet none of those I met were stupid. I thought it was because a truly stupid candidate couldn’t pass the bar exam. But I was wrong. There is a truly stupid attorney among us. His name is Mike Quigley, a Democratic Congressman from Illinois.
Perhaps that is why he is reported by the Supreme Court of Illinois as no longer authorized to practice law. Then again, maybe he just did not pay his bar dues. I have no evidence that the court knows Mike Quigley is stupid. Still, the public is better off if he remains off the active attorney list. The nation would be even better served if he resigned from Congress, too.
Just last week Congressman Quigley made the statement, “Hearsay can be better evidence than direct [testimony].” He was vouching for the reliability of a witness testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, the committee investigating the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The witness swore that he heard a staffer say that the staffer heard from another person that the president did something wrong. Quigley was claiming that this was better evidence than “direct testimony.” In this proceeding, “direct testimony” would be a direct admission of wrongdoing directly by the accused.
The entire notion is judicial nonsense.
Hearsay is testimony about statements made outside of court. It is generally inadmissible. And it is not just because hearsay is a technical rule of evidence. Its admission is generally unconstitutional.
The American hearsay rule is based on the Sixth Amendment right of a defendant “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Lawyers call this the right to “confront and cross-examine.” In short, hearsay is testimony by a witness that brings into a hearing the statement of another person not before the court.
With hearsay, the defendant cannot either confront or cross-examine the person who makes an accusatory statement. The only person in court is the person who heard it. Therefore, the statement is not admissible. It violates a basic constitutional right.
For instance, if I testify that I heard my friend tell me that he saw Donald Trump shoot a Democrat on Fifth Avenue, it is my friend who is accusing Mr. Trump of a crime, not me. I saw nothing. Confronting and cross-examining me accomplishes nothing. I do not know if the street was too dark to recognize the assailant. My friend’s eyesight, not mine, is at issue. A just court will throw out my hearsay testimony and require that my friend testify. It is his eyewitness testimony, not mine, which must be tested through rigorous cross examination.
Now, there are some exceptions. If a witness heard President Trump admit to the crime, that hearsay could be admitted. But that is only because Donald Trump, the maker of the admission, is in court to testify directly about his own statement. Other exceptions include statements made by eyewitnesses who are unavailable due to illness or, in some states, death. But there are few exceptions that allow hearsay statements where the firsthand witness is available. And the testimony admitted into evidence by the House Committee is not one of them.
A competent lawyer should know this. He should know that no one can be convicted of any crime based upon inadmissible hearsay. Hence, Congressman Quigley is either a stupid attorney or a political charlatan. Perhaps he is a little of both.
In their impeachment inquiry, Mr. Quigley and his mentor Adam Schiff, claim to be defending the Constitution. They are actually breaking it. Such recklessness does great damage to our government and its rule of law. That is why the entire impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives will, at its end, undermine government by undermining the faith of the people in its legitimacy.
In short, the Democratic impeachment strategy is “to destroy our constitutional village in order to save it.” It is a strategy which did not work in Vietnam and will not work in America today.
Fortunately, the impeachment inquiry assures us that Russia will not destroy our democracy. Unfortunately, Congressmen Schiff and Quigley will do it alone.