Unimpeachable Real Estate Experts

Posted by William Lightner, Esq. on Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Helping Busy Trial Attorneys Qualify You as an Expert

Here are tips I heard presented by attorneys Sean Ponist and Harold Justman at a recent dinner meeting of the Forensic Expert Witness Association.

Helping Busy Trial Attorneys Qualify You as an Expert

Before a witness will be allowed to offer expert testimony, the Evidence Code requires the attorney to show the expert possesses special knowledge, skill, experience, training or education about the subject at hand. (See Section 720 (a) of the California Evidence Code.)

To assist the attorney, the expert should not only provide the attorney with a detailed C.V. but a written list of questions to ask at the beginning of direction examination to elicit the elements of qualification (e.g., • education, • honors, • professional licensing and certifications, • professional affiliations and memberships, • relevant publications, • professional experience and • prior experience as an expert.)

It is also useful to have this information available in documentary form that can be presented to save time at depositions.

The Expert should Review Attorney-prepared Statements of Qualifications

Attorneys are required under Section 2034.260 (c) (1) of the Code of Civil Procedure to prepare and disclose a statement of the expert witness’s qualifications. To avoid embarrassment and possible impeachment, the expert should be sure to review this statement before it is finalized and sent.

Withstanding Challenges under Cross-examination

The law allows an opposing attorney to subject an expert to “the most rigid cross-examination.” Questions will challenge an expert’s qualifications, the opposing expert’s qualifications and bias. The inquisitor will try to attack the expert's opinion by altering underlying assumptions. They’ll try to characterize the expert as a hired-gun.

Important in dealing with all of these is to maintain neutrality and to keep cool. For instance, altered facts may support an altered opinion. Rather than dispute this, the expert should condition any alternative opinions to those facts actually found to be true by the jury.

When challenged on fees paid, keep answers dispassionately factual. Jurors don’t expect experts to render their opinions without compensation.

General Attributes Sought by Trial Judges, Attorneys and Juries

Credibility – witnesses who can communicate an opinion with no major gaps in factual evidence or logic.

Demeanor – an independent thinker who’s delivering their opinion with cool-headed impartiality

Great teachers – presenters who are enthusiastic about their subject who are also likeable, non-confrontational and unpretentious

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