August 01, 2017

Teaching Judges to Be Gatekeepers of the Admissibility of Science: The Role of the ABA Judicial Division Forensic Science Committee

By Judge Stephanie Domitrovich and W. Milton Nuzum III

In our tradition-bound process in the United States, experts are often perceived as “hired guns” who are well paid by the litigants to provide testimony in the form of various types of methodologies to drown out opposing experts. Within this adversarial atmosphere, justice and science must coexist for the good of society. Historically, the courts have viewed science as an indispensable ally in their shared project of pursuing the truth. Scientists seek the truth by working diligently and gradually on their hypotheses, using relevant scientific methodologies to validate core insights. Scientists also recognize their evolving need to revise and refine their hypotheses and methodologies due to peer review and criticism emanating from various scientific communities. In the legal process, judges and jurors in our courtrooms must reach definitive decisions for “a particular moment in time, while this scientific process is going on.”1

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