JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Representative Kevin Corlew filed legislation this week to improve the reliability of expert evidence that is presented to juries in Missouri state courts. The bill would implement a well-established standard for determining when expert-witness testimony is admissible as evidence at trial.
The proposed standard, commonly referred to as the Daubert standard after a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case, is used in federal courts and in more than two-thirds of the states. The trial judge acts as a gatekeeper to ensure that “expert” testimony is based on sufficient facts or data and is the product of reliable principles and methods.
“This legislation would ensure that testimony from someone designated by lawyers as an ‘expert’ can be relied upon by citizen jurors,” said Corlew, R-Kansas City. “Our jurors give of their time, serve ably, and normally just want to make sure that justice is done. We owe it to them to make sure that the evidence presented is trustworthy and not just a product of how much a party can afford to pay a so-called expert to say whatever supports the party’s case.”
The expert standard would apply in both criminal and civil cases, except in family law and juvenile cases. The proposal has garnered support among various groups.
Dan Mehan, the CEO and president of the Missouri Chamber, said that “empowering judges to evaluate and rule on the quality and reliability of expert testimony is an important tool in bringing non-meritorious cases to a close and conserving scarce judicial resources.” But “even more important than court efficiency and cost savings,” Mehan said, “this legislation will allow Missouri courts to deliver more just outcomes.”
According to Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri, “This commonsense legislation is not onerous to any party—it simply adopts the same rules for determining when a witness may claim to be an expert as are used in federal court.” McCarty said the bill addresses problems caused for business when “junk science” and fake experts are used to victimize businesses in the courtroom.
“The Daubert standard has worked well in federal criminal trials,” according to Jason Lamb, executive director of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, “and it would bring uniformity and consistency to expert standards in state criminal law.”
The bill, HB 1676, is similar to a bill Corlew sponsored last year, which was voted out of the Missouri House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee and the Missouri House Select Judiciary Committee. Missouri Senator Mike Parson has filed a similar bill in the Missouri Senate.
“The proposed expert standard is predictable and fair,” according to Corlew, “It favors no particular litigant over another—whether a criminal defendant or prosecutor, or a civil plaintiff or defendant.” “Ultimately,” he said, “the standard would better serve the truth-finding function of our civil and criminal justice systems.”