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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Improving Expert and Counsel Relationships

Photo of attorneys discussing a case. Captions say "Improving Expert and Counsel Relationships"
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Several proposed codes of conduct for attorneys who deal with expert witnesses are in the drafting stages. One such code encompasses 11 major points to assist in the attorney-expert witness relationship. A Proposed Code of Conduct, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Jurisprudence Section.

Although the AAFS code has not yet been adopted, members of both professions feel that the level of performance, conduct and ethical relationships must be raised.

The tendered code states that attorneys shall not knowingly proffer to the court an expert with fraudulent credentials. Such conduct would certainly subject an attorney to severe sanctions, if not criminal penalties.

In addition, the American Bar Association has published Standards for Criminal Justice. This publication includes both prosecution and defense standards for dealing with experts. It emphasizes the expert's independence and the need for impartiality.

Typical of the effort to improve the relationship between attorneys and forensic witnesses is the development, in several states, of interprofessional guides for expert witnesses and lawyers. The purposes of these guides are to:

  • Promote better understanding between lawyers and expert witnesses.
  • Improve communication between them.
  • Minimize disputes.

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