Questions from the Bench and Independent Experts: A Study of the Practices of State Court Judges
38 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2012 Last revised: 29 Nov 2012
Date Written: March 22, 2012
While the Daubert case and its progeny provided detailed guidance to judges on the substantive standard for expert gatekeeping, the court spent little time explaining the procedures to use to achieve that gatekeeping review. Justice Breyer’s concurrence in Joiner offered some suggestions on what procedures to use. Since Daubert in 1993, only a few studies have explored the methods judges actually use to perform their gatekeeping task. While they consistently find that judges see their role as more active since Daubert, they are less than complete on procedures of advanced factfinding. They also rely on surveys over a decade old.
This Study offers new data to expand upon and update prior research in the area. Relying on survey responses of state court judges in the Midwestern United States, this Study explores how judges use advanced factfinding tools of the Rules of Evidence in their courtrooms. Some results are consistent with prior studies, particularly the responses on frequency of use of judicial questioning from the bench and appointment of independent experts. Yet by exploring the judicial responses across a variety of characteristics, some new and interesting results arise. Finally, the study provides the only post-Daubert data on the reasons why judges are reluctant to appoint independent experts under Rule 706. Those data contrast with prior studies in the area.
By measuring the actual practices of state court judges, this Study explores the methods Justice Breyer suggested judges use in their Daubert gatekeeping, what tools are used and not used by the judiciary, and whether the aspirational goals of the Rules of Evidence match reality in courtrooms today.
Keywords: expert, judges, factfinding, gatekeeping, Daubert, empirical
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation