Collisions of Expert Testimony: Why Rule 56 Should Be Amended
AbstractWe propose a novel solution to the problem of resolving "battles of the experts" in court cases. Judicial proceedings increasingly deal with complex scientific, technical, and economic issues. Lay jurors have difficulty resolving such matters, which require experts precisely because they are beyond the understanding of laymen. To deal with this conundrum, we propose shifting responsibility for resolving these issues to the courts by recognizing them as issues of law rather than fact. We argue that enhancing the decision mechanism would improve the quality of expert testimony and the judicial outcomes. For years, judicial commentators have observed that the jury system is not well designed to handle expert disputes. Sorting through competing expert testimony is far afield from the traditional role of the jury, plays to the jury's weaknesses, and calls into question the rationality of verdicts that depend on resolving battles of experts. Previously proposed solutions have focused on introducing additional, so-called "neutral" experts. We argue that the debate should focus instead on who should evaluate the expert testimony. We recommend that the lay jury should not adjudicate conflicting expert testimony. Instead, the judge's role should be expanded from admissibility gatekeeper to decisionmaker in battles of experts. To this end, we propose amending the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Rule that permits a judge to summarily resolve legal issues and matters where there is no role for the jury to play. Our proposed amendment would empower the court to enter judgment resolving a dispute among experts rather than submit this dispute to the jury.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Regulation2point0 in its series Working paper with number 381.
Date of creation: Oct 2006
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