A court case involves more than the prosecutor and defendant, their laywers and the judge and jury. While final verdicts rely upon these parties, getting there requires an understanding of the facts of the case. Interpreting these facts, in turn, requires experts. Knowing what an expert entails in the context of court, what their role is and how they interact with clients can be important when making your case.
What is an Expert?
In the United States, the definition of an expert and their capacity to act as a witness or adviser has specific standards defined by the Federal Rules of Evidence. Namely, an expert possesses specialized knowledge pertinent to the evidence provided to the court. They may either be called upon to explain underlyling theories and principles in interpreting evidence or to present an opinion on the specific evidence involved.
What this looks like depends on the field of expertise—a forensics expert might talk about DNA testing and the results of findings in the lab, while a banking expert witness would provide insight on subjects like lending practices, credit analysis and fraud issues.
Differences Between Witnesses and Advisers
The role of an expert in court, and their relation to clients, often varies. Frequently experts are described as being witnesses or advisers, and many people assume these are synonymous. However, they convey very different duties and relationships to the proceedings of the court.
An expert witness’s primary obligation is to the judge and jury, not to any one client. They are expected to be impartial and independent, and their findings and opinions are presented publically to all parties. Like any other witness, they may also be cross-examined.
An expert adviser, on the other hand, consults privately with their client and gives direction in making their case. Their statements are confidential and not subject to cross-examination, and they aren’t obligated to impartiality.