Trial Judge’s (New?) Responsibilities Under Amended Rule 702

1 min read

The legal landscape will soon see a major shift due to the amendment to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, effective December 1, 2023. The amendment aims to address concerns about lax judicial gatekeeping by creating a heightened standard for the admissibility of expert witness testimony. Proponents must now demonstrate, by a preponderance of evidence, that expert testimony not only relies on a reliable methodology but also applies it reliably to the case’s facts.

This amendment is part of a progression starting with the Daubert Trilogy in the 1990s, challenging the traditional Frye standard and emphasizing judges’ gatekeeping role. The 2000 amendment to Rule 702, followed by subsequent judicial interpretations, saw varied applications among different circuits.

The upcoming amendment reinforces the gatekeeping role of judges and aims to prevent leniency in allowing questionable expert testimonies to reach the jury. The amendment is a direct response to judicial tendencies observed over recent years, where some courts have been too lenient in their gatekeeping role, allowing questionable expert testimonies to reach the jury. This has been especially prevalent in complex cases where the scientific or technical nature of the evidence is beyond the general knowledge of lay jurors. By clarifying that the admissibility of expert testimony is strictly a judicial function, the amendment to Rule 702 seeks to uphold the standards of proof and the integrity of the judicial process. It sets the stage for a more thorough approach by courts, ensuring that only credible, reliable, and relevant expert testimony influences jury decisions.

Looking ahead, it is anticipated that the amendment will lead to a more diligent and meticulous judicial approach in scrutinizing expert evidence. Courts will likely witness an increase in pretrial challenges to expert testimony, necessitating judges to engage more deeply with the methodologies and principles underlying such evidence. While some resistance to the new standard is expected, the overall trajectory points toward a heightened standard that will likely result in more reliable and scientifically sound expert testimony being presented in court.

In conclusion, the amendment to Rule 702 is not merely a clarification, but a pivotal turning point in the evidentiary standards that govern expert testimony. Its successful implementation will require a concerted effort from the judiciary to embrace the enhanced gatekeeping role and for legal practitioners to adjust their strategies in presenting expert evidence. This amendment represents a significant step towards ensuring that only credible, reliable, and relevant expert testimony informs the decisions of juries and upholds the integrity of the judicial process.

Lastly, to read the full article analyzing the changes for FRE 702, download the PDF below:

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  1. I am glad to see this. I my case, the expert witnesses for the defendant’s, gave provable false testimony, claimed dangerous things like the severe allergies I have to dust, could not have affected me from being exposed to severe mold and lead dusts. Claimed I was admitted into a hospital for mental illness and was imagining things in re of lead and mold, when the EPA and other testing org gave me results that lead to my having to vacate the premises and stay in a hotel until I found another apartment. I have proof that their accusations were not scientific and were a dander to my life, and according to HHD, they violated my HIPAA rights.

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