Expert Witness Background Investigation: Discrediting the Witness

Expert Witness Background Investigation: Discrediting the Witness
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In high stakes litigation, an expert witness background investigation may uncover information that could potentially discredit the expert witness and ultimately lead to a favorable outcome.

Pretrial discovery provided you with the opposing expert’s CV and details about his compensation for testimony. You may have Googled the expert witness or pulled up a few of his articles on Google Scholar. But what does this really tell you about your adversary’s expert? What do you truly know about your own expert, for that matter?

It’s easy for anyone to do some basic searches and get a “snapshot” of the expert that will be on the stand. It’s even easier to rely on the information provided by the expert. But what are you missing? Unless you find a glaring discrepancy or a front page scandal, basic research won’t provide you with the ammunition to discredit or disqualify your adversary’s expert.

In a comprehensive expert witness background investigation, an experienced investigator can dig deeper into the background of an opposing expert witness to help you on cross examination. In high stakes litigation, you should assume that your opponent is doing the same thing – what will they find? Investigating your own expert may prevent potential problems at trial and you will be better able to anticipate the other side’s attack.

Below are some areas that could be uncovered in a expert witness background investigation that could potentially discredit the witness:

The CV

Verifying the veracity of the information in the expert witness’s CV is a good, basic starting point. It is critical to know that the information contained in the CV is complete and accurate.  In addition to verifying “directory information” of former affiliations, organizations and educational institutions, investigators can also speak with former colleagues or associates, learning additional details about the expert.

Affiliations and Conflicts of Interest

In the past, attorneys have tried to obtain information about experts’ affiliations and monetary arrangements through discovery. As judges begin to limit the scope of discovery motions this tool may not always yield useful information. Having an investigator dig into an expert’s affiliations (e.g., organizations, educational institutions, employers, business partners etc.) may reveal conflicts of interests or other information useful for discrediting the witness.

Prior Statements

Pulling testimony in cases is time consuming, and frequently requires personnel to go to the court in question, but it can be a goldmine of information. Contradictory testimony in prior cases is, of course, a fantastic way to discredit a witness. Attorneys should also consider using other statements by the expert made in the media, scholarly articles, and other sources.

Past Acts

In the past year there have been notable examples of discredited experts throughout the United States and the world. Prior criminal records and a history of work issues have come to light both in the United Kingdom and in the San Francisco forensic crime lab. Currently, a scandal is unfolding in Florida, where psychologist George Rekers’ testimony in numerous parental rights cases, is being called into question. Rekers’ paid testimony for the state attorney general’s office is being scrutinized.