The Limits of Social Framework Evidence
Law, Probability & Risk, Forthcoming
16 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2009 Last revised: 16 Jun 2010
Date Written: July 10, 2009
An important debate is brewing over the proper scope of expert witness testimony that purports to summarize general social science evidence to provide context for the factfinder to decide case-specific questions. In a recent article, we argued that experts who provide this 'social framework' testimony should be restricted from making any linkages between general social science research findings and specific case questions unless such linkages are supported by scientifically reliable methods and principles. A response to our article by Professors Hart and Secunda argued that experts should be given much more latitude to match the facts of a particular case to findings from social science research. In the present paper, we show that Hart and Secunda mischaracterized our arguments for restricting the scope of social framework evidence, ignored the actual practices of experts who are providing the expert opinions that we question, and misconstrued the motivations behind and likely implications of our arguments. We encourage courts to reject the approach that Hart and Secunda advocate, which would permit both plaintiff and defense experts to link general research to specific cases through nothing other than the expert’s subjective judgments and intuition.
Keywords: expert witness, expert evidence, social framework evidence, scientific evidence, class actions
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