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Expert Evidence

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Judge Jed S. Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) summarizes the materials on this site about fingerprint identification and what judges should consider when weighing expert testimony. To go back to the main Fingerprint Identification page, click here.

A brief introduction to fingerprints: How fingerprint properties (uniqueness, consistency, and ridge pattern) make fingerprints a useful forensic tool. To go back to the main Fingerprint Identification page, click here.

Judge Jed S. Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) introduces website materials that cover fingerprint identification and what judges should consider when considering and responding to challenges to the admissibility of fingerprint evidence and testimony. To go back to the main Fingerprint Identification page, click here.

This video covers the quality assurance programs implemented by the forensic laboratories throughout the country. For more information, please refer to the Discipline-Specific Baseline Documents section at the NIST.gov website. To go back to the main Fingerprint Identification page, click here.

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In 1993, the Supreme Court’s opinion in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals ushered in a new era with regard to the admissibility of expert testimony. As expert testimony has become increasingly essential in a wide variety of litigated cases, the Daubert opinion has had an enormous impact. If plaintiffs’ expert proof is excluded on a crucial issue, plaintiffs cannot win and usually cannot even get their case to a jury. This discussion begins with a brief overview of the Supreme Court’s three opinions on expert testimony—often called the Daubert trilogy—and their impact. It then examines a fourth Supreme Court case that relates to expert testimony, before turning to a variety of issues that judges are called upon to resolve, particularly when the proffered expert testimony hinges on scientific knowledge.

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Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires each party to disclose to the other, at specified time intervals, a variety of information about their case. These mandatory disclosures are covered by Rule 26: (a)(1) initial disclosure, (a)(2) expert testimony disclosure, and (a)(3) pretrial disclosure. Civil Rule 26 is made applicable to adversary proceedings (APs) in bankruptcy by Rule 7026 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. Rule 26 is Appendix 1. The Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules asked the Federal Judicial Center to survey bankruptcy judges about whether the Committee should recommend an amendment to Bankr. Rule 7026 to exempt certain categories of APs from the mandatory disclosure requirements of Rule 26. These survey results were submitted to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules in March 2004.

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This is an expanded version of Expert Testimony in Federal Civil Trials: A Preliminary Analysis (2000). In 1998, the Federal Judicial Center surveyed federal judges about their experiences with expert testimony in civil cases. Judges answered specific questions about their most recent relevant civil trial, as well as questions drawing on their overall experience with expert testimony in civil cases. The Center conducted a similar survey of judges in 1991, shortly before the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Preliminary analysis of the aggregated data has focused on (1) comparing judges' experiences with expert testimony before and after Daubert and (2) exploring the current concerns of judges regarding expert testimony in civil cases. Additional data have since been collected from attorneys in the trials described in the 1998 survey. Preliminary findings include the following:

  • Experts testified most frequently in tort cases.
  • Medical and mental health experts were the most common broad category of testifying experts, although economists were the single most frequent specific type of expert. Experts from scientific specialties testified in only a small proportion of cases.
  • Judges were more likely to scrutinize expert testimony before trial and less likely to admit expert testimony in 1998 than in 1991. Attorneys report filing motions in limine, challenging the admissibility of expert testimony, more frequently after Daubert.
  • The two most common problems cited by judges were experts who were not objective and the excessive expense of expert testimony.
  • In general, judges' assessments of problems with expert testimony did not differ greatly from 1991 to 1998.

Note: Excerpted from Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 2002, vol. 8, no. 3, pages 309-322.

In Print: Available for Distribution

This report to the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management describes two different types of independent panels used in the silicone gel breast implants litigation. The use of such panels of appointed experts represents a marked departure from the traditional means of presenting and considering testimony. This report describes these expert panels in sufficient detail to permit others to understand the procedures that were used, the benefits that resulted, and the problems that arose. A similar version of this report was originally delivered to the Committee in November 1999.

In Print: Available for Distribution

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