Assignment 2: Court Standards
Explore court standards, rules, and regulations and the differences among them for selecting and approving professional witnesses and determining admissibility of expert testimony. Use resources from professional literature and conduct research to support your responses. Professional literature may include relevant textbooks; peer-reviewed journal articles; and websites created by professional organizations, agencies, or institutions (.edu, .org, and .gov).
Write a 3- to 4-page paper, including the following:
What standards are used by courts to determine who is an expert witness?
What standards are used by courts to determine the admissibility of expert testimony?
What are the differences between standards for sentencing, commitment, and competencies in civil and criminal courts?
The origin of the use of expert witness in courts is traced to England courts. The first notable case involves Folkes v Chadd in 1782. In this case, the court relied upon expert witness to determine whether the demolition of a sea bank had a direct influence on the decay rate of the harbor (Horne & Mullen, 2013). Since then, courts all over the world have relied on expert witness to make key decisions. Drawing on the above, expert witness involves the use of interpretive opinion provided by an expert in a particular field to serve as evidence in the criminal justice system. Expert witness helps in the decision-making process, especially where the judges lack relevant knowledge on a particular subject matter. This paper examines the standards of witness, admissibility of expert testimony, and the differences between standards used in sentencing, commitment, and the key competencies in civil as well as criminal courts.
Standards used by Courts to Determine an Expert Witness
The courts outline specific standards to determine who can qualify as an expert witness and thus assist in the decision making process (Horne & Mullen, 2013). An expert witness should have sound knowledge of the area that he/she is required to provide evidence. The expert witness should have a good understanding of the different viewpoints and the merits and demerits associated with each. A related standard to the above is the ability to understand the issue under contention. An expert witness is not only evaluated basing on academic qualifications, but also on his ability to apply knowledge. An expert witness should be able to express himself or herself eloquently. The expert witness should be able to express facts in an understandable and meaningful manner. Another important standard is social interactionism. A good expert witness should be a team player (Horne & Mullen, 2013). This is important because often, the expert witness is required to interact with members while conducting analysis.
The court may determine an expert witness basing on professionalism. The expert witness should be able to present facts in a professional manner. The expert witness should be able to apply the professional codes of conduct and observe various rules while dealing with a particular situation. The courts may determine an expert witness basing on clarity of thought and expression. A good expert witness should be able to clearly explain the facts of the case in writing and orally. Another standard applied relates to conflicts of interest. A good expert witness should not have any conflicts of interest to the matter at hand (Erickson & Grise, 2013). Lastly, it is imperative that a good expert witness should pull through a ‘Daubert’ motion. The Daubert standard is used to examine a number of things relating to the scientific inquiry, such as methods of data collection, potential errors, and theory applied (Erickson & Grise, 2013).
The admissibility of expert testimony
The admissibility of expert testimony in court is under the discretion of the court judge presiding over a particular case. The court judge examines a number of issues in establishing the admissibility of expert evidence. Key among these is whether expert testimony adheres to the Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which came into effect in December 2000 (“Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA),” n.d). The Federal Rule of Evidence 702 allows judges to act as “gatekeepers” in determining whether expert testimony is admissible in the court of law. This rule includes the amendment that gives judges the power to admit technical and scientific evidence basing on the changes highlighted in ‘Daubert v. Merrell Dow’ and ‘Kumho Tire’ cases in 1993 and 1999 respectively (“MSBA,” n.d). Court judges are required to evaluate expert witnesses and determine whether they are qualified to give expert testimony.
The Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides four fundamental standards that guide judges when evaluating the nature of expert testimony (“MSBA,” n.d). According to this rule, the expert witness must be duly qualified in the area of interest. As such, the expert witness must have the necessary educational qualifications, knowledge, skills, and experience in the area he/she opts to testify. The second standard requires that the testimony given be based on sufficient facts and data. Thus, the expert witness should apply factual details in examining the situation. Third, the expert witness should apply relevant scientific methods and principles in evaluating details of the case. The expert witness must follow due procedures in examining the details of a particular case. The last standard dictates that the expert witness must apply the principles and methods in a reliable manner to the facts established in the case (“MSBA,” n.d). These standards establish the criteria to follow in assessing the admissibility of expert testimony in criminal proceedings.
Differences between standards for sentencing, commitment, and competencies in civil and criminal courts.
Key differences exist between civil and criminal courts. In civil courts, one party or the plaintiff brings a complaint against another party or the defendant. On the other hand, the government brings a legal suit against a person in a criminal court. A key difference exists in sentencing. In civil courts, a ‘preponderance of evidence’ is enough to have the defendant convicted, while in criminal courts, the reasonable doubt clause applies in deciding the case. In criminal courts, the punishment meted out to guilty individuals is in form of incarceration, fines, or in extreme cases execution. In civil courts, the defendant does not face the death penalty and neither a jail sentence (“Findlaw,” n.d). The courts in this case hands monetary relief to the plaintiff or equitable relief where the court orders the defendant to refrain from doing something.
In conclusion, court judges often rely on expert testimony to base their decisions in criminal proceedings. This is because court judges lack relevant knowledge in particular areas. However, court judges have the discretion to evaluate expert testimony and determine whether it is admissible in the court of law. The Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides four fundamental standards that guide judges when evaluating the nature of expert testimony.
Erickson, D. R., & Grise, L. R. (2013). Best practices – working with experts. ABA. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/litigation/materials/sac2013/ sac_2013/52_%20best_practices_for_working_events.authcheckdam.pdf
Findlaw. (n.d). Civil cases vs. criminal cases – key differences. Retrieved from http://litigation.findlaw.com/filing-a-lawsuit/civil-cases-vs-criminal-cases-key- differences.html
Horne, R., & Mullen, J. (2013). Expert Witness in Construction (1). Somerset, GB: Wiley- Blackwell. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.libproxy.edmc.edu
Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA). (n.d). Admissibility of exert testimony in Federal Courts. Retrieved from http://www.msba.org/uploadedFiles/MSBA/Member_Groups/Sections/Construction_Law /Expert%20Witness%20Admissibility%20Federal%20Courts.pdf