Villalobos: Sworn testimony a tool to be used more often August 15, 2003 Managing Editor Regular News Villalobos: Sworn testimony a tool to be used more often Mark D. Killian Managing Editor“When someone is placed under oath there is a lot more beef and a lot less bull.”That’s how Sen. Alex Villalobos, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, summed up the use of sworn testimony before his committee during the recent second legislative session on medical malpractice. And now the Miami Republican is convinced that swearing people in before they provide information to the legislature is a tool lawmakers should use more often.“To me the integrity of the process is much more important than the outcome of a single bill,” Villalobos said. “So whether you are for it or against it, to me makes less of a difference than if that process is pure and on the up-and-up — and I think that was proven by the hearings.”In the midst of the med mal debate, senators noted they were getting conflicting information, so they took the unusual step of inviting witnesses to the Judiciary Committee and then putting them under oath, which makes them liable to a perjury charge if they lie.“I kept hearing all this stuff from the same people, except it was modified slightly each time I heard it,” Villalobos said.That’s when he approached Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, and recommended placing witnesses under oath, saying, “We are never going to get to the bottom of this unless we do this like we do in court.”At first, Villalobos said, President King was hesitant. “I told him in my world, which is in court, that is how everything is done, and it really narrows the focus on what we need to do and what we need to get done,” Villalobos said.King agreed, the hearings were held, and many of the claims made about medical malpractice in Florida were debunked.“The truth is anyone who has ever been under oath really talks differently and says things in a different way and is a little bit less [apt] to exaggerate,” Villalobos said. “It definitely has a value — it does away with the rhetoric and it allows the members to make up their minds based on facts, not fiction. That’s the way it works in the court system and the court system works just fine.”Based on how it worked in the med mal debate, Villalobos anticipates the Senate will use sworn testimony more often when dealing with other issues in the future.
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