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Can Expert Witnesses Reach a Legal Conclusion in Their Testimony?

The District courts have given a judgment about what the expert witness can accomplish when it comes to legal conclusions and what is possible within the testimony presented in the courtroom with the professional. It is important for the expert to abide by this decision and only explain what he or she has permission to state.

Invading the Province of the Judge

One primary concern when reaching a conclusion with the expert witness testimony is the province of the judge. The court authority has the power to consider the evidence and come to a judgment about the case materials. If the professional usurps this authority in a legal context, it could lead to consequences. It is the judge’s right and job to make determinations and also instruct the jury properly about certain matters. What the expert can present in testimony is often in the gray area because some cases have blurred lines. However, changes with the District Courts may simply these matters.

Invasion and Consequences

Some experts may have the legal expertise and a background in law. However, even if the professional was previously a lawyer, he or she cannot invade the provisions of the court or this person
may face the consequences. By explaining that something is a violation of the law, that it is a crime or by stepping on the feet of the judge or jury, the expert may cause problems for his or her situation. By making the impermissible legal conclusions, this person can face penalties and suffer the consequences. It is imperative to communicate with the lawyer before attempting to accomplish this feat.

Impermissible Legal Opinion

Because some experts have legal experience and a background in law, the courts decided to better define the lines of permissible testimony and what crosses the line. The Federal Rule of Evidence comes into play in these situations. This permits the expert to offer testimony to the courtroom that can embrace the issue provided there are facts backing it. Even with this rule, however, the expert cannot instruct the jury as to what result the panel should or must reach based on available evidence and facts within the case. Certain aspects of the case are up to the judge.

Rendering an Opinion

The expert witness in a case can render an opinion based on facts about the case or to the courtroom that can suggest a certain way of thinking or judging. However, the court does not give this professional the right to render an ultimate opinion that can explain what the judge or jury should or must do. The expert can provide a convincing argument, but he or she cannot state that something must occur because this professional believes it so. Offering opinions based on fact that can suggest a will is valid or that a person is within his or her right mind to commit a crime is permissible.

The Convincing Opinion

The court authorities and District Courts have rendered judgment that an expert witness can give an opinion about the conduct of the party and any actions that could meet certain legal judgment or decisions. However, the ultimate opinion and what the jury or judge should do is not within these parameters. Certain legal duties and within the confines of the law are only partially within the bounds of this opinion. The expert can explain that under ordinary circumstances, these actions could in abstract become improper or inconsistent. However, the expert cannot say they are illegal or that these actions should render a certain penalty.

The expert cannot instruct the jury or judge. His or her permissible opinion cannot instruct or require the jury panel to reach a certain verdict. The legal conclusion is an opinion based on fact and evidence. However, it cannot include statements or direct orders about the guilt, innocence or liability of a certain party. The court may exclude the testimony of the expert or disqualify him or her for the case in light of these conclusions that do instruct or direct. The gray area exists with the opinion and the conclusion. However, it does not let the expert cross the line and state that someone is guilty. The court can assess the professional’s conduct in the case later.

The Expert’s Conclusion

The conclusion reached can imply or try to convince of certain aspects of the case. Generally, the opinion has a direct and strong backing by evidence and case materials, but the expert cannot reach a legal conclusion that requires the judge or jury to agree.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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