Articles Posted in Researching Experts

What areas may insurance expert witnesses consult on? They may write reports, give deposition and testify on insurance regulations, insurance fraud, reinsurance, and more. In Excess Of Loss Coverage For Self Insurers: Is It Insurance Or Reinsurance?, attorney, mediator, and insurance expert witness Robert M. Hall writes:

I. Introduction
Self-insurance entities often purchase excess of loss coverage from conventional insurers and reinsurers in order to meet the solvency standards of the self-insurers’ supervising authorities. Often it is unclear whether this capacity must take the form of excess insurance or may take the form of reinsurance. The companies that provide this coverage sometimes structure it as reinsurance in order to be free of market conduct and rate and form regulation as well as premium taxes, guaranty fund assessments and other charges involved in direct insurance. However, the manner in which the coverage is styled may not be determinative when problems arise. The purpose of this article is to present selected case law as to whether this insurance or reinsurance is treated in several different self-insurance contexts.

II. Rate and Form Filings and Assessments
Commissioner of Insurance v. American Nat. Ins. Co., 410 S.W.3d 843 (Tex. 2012) involved stop loss coverage provided to qualified, self-funded employee benefit plans sponsored by various governmental and private entities. It is not clear from the opinion whether the relevant coverage documents were styled as policies or reinsurance contracts. However for financial statement purposes, the insurer treated the premiums it received as resulting from reinsurance assumed. During a routine audit, the Texas Insurance Department discovered this practice and alleged that the coverage was insurance rather than reinsurance and that the insurer should have paid premium taxes and complied with other regulatory strictures applicable to insurance.

After a detailed examination of Texas statutes, the court found the insurance code ambiguous on point but decided to defer to the position of the Insurance Department that the coverage was insurance and not reinsurance:

The Department has therefore concluded that stop-loss insurance purchased by a plan does not involve two insurers and is therefore not reinsurance. It is instead direct insurance in the nature of health insurance because stop-loss policies are purchased by the plans ultimately to cover claims associated with their health-care expenses. The Department’s construction is reasonable, was formally promulgated, and is not expressly contradicted by the Insurance Code. We accordingly agree with the Department’s construction and hold that stop-loss insurance sold to a self-funded employee health-benefit plan is not reinsurance, but rather direct insurance subject to regulation under the Insurance Code.

Mr. Hall is an attorney, a former law firm partner, a former insurance and reinsurance executive and acts as an insurance consultant as well as an arbitrator and mediator of insurance and reinsurance disputes and as an expert witness. Copyright by the author 2015. Mr. Hall has authored over 100 articles and they may be viewed at his website:

In Finding and Researching Experts and Their Testimony, authors Jim Robinson David Dilenschneider, Myles Levin, and Nathan Aaron Rosen write:

Several of us got into some discussions about the need to research experts thoroughly. During those discussions, we exchanged our knowledge of not only the resources to search but also effective strategies on how to use the information found. In the end, we realized that none of us was aware of a truly-comprehensive resource that detailed all the various ways to learn about experts. Accordingly, in the spring of 2007, we wrote the First Edition of this White Paper.

In February 2009, we updated the paper to highlight new resources that had emerged (as well as delete references to older, non-functioning sites), acknowledge new applications and strategies, and relate more failures to vet experts thoroughly.

In the past five years, technologies have changed dramatically, more sites have come and gone, and – of course – failures to vet continue to occur. Accordingly, we have taken it upon ourselves to provide a detailed update to the paper, resulting in this Third Edition.

We hope you find this White Paper to be a valuable resource and return to it regularly.

Many years ago, an Arizona trial court judge overturned a jury’s verdict, ordered a new trial and sanctioned the defendant over half a million dollars because the defense expert had lied about his qualifications. Importantly, the judge based his decision to sanction on his expectation that the defendant would have conducted thorough research on its own experts:

This court opined that defendant . . . knew or should have known of the falsity of its own expert’s credentials, but could not conclude that [defendant] in fact knew. This court has been persuaded by plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration that “should have known” warrants sanctions.”

Expert witnesses are used in a wide range of litigation and their opinions are often viewed as critical – frequently making or breaking a case. As a result, many trials have turned into a battle of the experts. Yet despite their importance, few attorneys take the time to utilize the proper resources to find the right experts, evaluate their credentials, and/or assess the admissibility of their testimony.

The purpose of this article is to suggest various types of online resources that can be used to find experts, gather information about them (whether one’s own or the opposing party’s), and assess the admissibility of their testimony – as well as tips and strategies on how the information uncovered might be utilized. In addition, to assist in research efforts, a few (but certainly not all) potentially-relevant websites have been included. However, note that because many of the resources discussed (e.g. agency opinions, verdict reports, etc.) are available from a wide variety of free and commercial vendors, such as LexisNexis® (see, e.g., Lexis Advance ), Thomson Reuters (see, e.g., WestlawNext), and Bloomberg Law®, generally such providers are not constantly repeated as possible sources of information, unless their being a provider of that specific type of information is not manifestly obvious.

One final note of caution: be wary of outrageous marketing claims. Some vendors will tout that they can provide you all of the information you need to identify, select or impeach an expert. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, some products marketed via such claims actually miss relevant, and relatively easy-to-find, information about many experts – providing you with far less than what is promised. The simple upshot is that, although several fairly-comprehensive products, platforms and services exist, we have yet to find one that does it all. So when evaluating resources, adhere to the well-known maxim: “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Finding a Potential Expert

A brief word of advice on the subject of finding a potential expert: do it as soon as you possibly can. From precluding the opposition, to helping frame the issues, to assisting in evaluating the opposing expert, the benefits to be gained from early retention are significant and worth the effort.
A. Learning about the Subject Matter In order to know what questions to ask a potential expert, one should conduct some basic investigation into the relevant topic of expertise. Of course, such research might also lead to the names of potential experts in that field.
Library Websites a. Online Catalogs Library websites are an excellent place to begin the search to find information about the subject matter and to find potential experts. Start by searching libraries’ online catalogs for books and journals on the subject at issue. For example, a search for “handwriting identification” on the Library of Congress’s website will return the names of potential experts, the title and date of their publications, and cross-references to other works by each author. Pay particular attention to this information – someone who writes extensively on the subject at issue may make an ideal candidate to serve as an expert.
Possible Sites:;;
b. Commercial Databases (Free Access)
In addition to making their own catalogs available online, many public libraries also offer free access to some external “pay” databases. Ordinarily, all you need to access these databases from a computer is a library card and an Internet connection. Just a few of the types of databases offered by some libraries include:

Academic Search Premier ProQuest Newspaper / Periodical Articles Reference USA Business Source Premier EBSCO Business Directories (e.g. Standard & Poor’s,
Hoovers, etc.)
Gale’s Biographies JSTOR Physician’s Desk Reference Marquis Who’s Who
Medical Websites The National Library of Medicine (“NLM”) is an excellent place to find materials in all areas of biomedicine and healthcare, including biomedical aspects of technology, the humanities, and the physical, life, and social sciences. According to its website, the NLM houses millions of items – including books, journals, technical reports, and manuscripts. Moreover, the site, along with its associated services (i.e. “PubMed” and “MedLine Plus”), contains links to medical encyclopedias, full-text news stories, articles, and free publications, as well as information on how to order those materials.

In addition, every branch of medicine has its own professional association with an accompanying website, oftentimes offering article databases and membership directories. The website of the American Board of Medical Specialties is one of the best places to look for links to these associations.

Possible Sites: (PubMed/MEDLINE);; (requires registration); (charges organizations to verify physician certifications)…

Many legal portals provide access to articles by legal professionals that discuss expert witnesses. For example,, the legal portal of American Lawyer Media (“ALM”), provides access to full-text articles from its various publications – but only to its subscribers (while also providing synopses of those articles for non-subscribers and the opportunity for them to view a limited number of articles via free registration).

The Index to Legal Periodicals & Books (H.W. Wilson) and Legal Resources Index (electronic version of Current Law Index (Gale) are searchable electronic indexes of legal periodical articles containing information about experts. Most of the information consists of article citations from major law reviews, bar association journals and legal newspapers. These citations include an article’s title, author, source, and subject headings. Various indexes to legal periodicals, along with the full text of articles can be accessed from many library websites and commercial providers.

Articles written by experts may also be found through Google Scholar. Launched in 2009, this service provides a way to broadly search for scholarly literature, including articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions. These documents have been collected from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other websites. Google Scholar may be searched with Boolean, proximity, and phrase searching, as well as through its advanced search function.

Some expert witness directories such as JurisPro and Hieros Gamos provide free access to articles written by experts, and many trade associations publish online newsletters and some provide either the full text of or extracts from articles. For example, the Accident Reconstruction Communications (ARC) Network, a professional organization for those in the accident reconstruction industry, has a monthly newsletter with articles authored by experts. This website also has an active discussion forum that includes opinions posted by various accident reconstructionists.

Jim Robinson, Esq.
Attorney, Past Education Chair for the California State Bar Law Practice Management and Technology Section, Founder of JurisPro Inc.

David V. Dilenschneider, Esq.
Senior Director, Client Relations LexisNexis
Myles Levin CEO
Daubert Tracker
Nathan Aaron Rosen Library Research Manager Dechert LLP

Automobile air bag safety expert witnesses may consult and testify on automobile airbags, air bag deployment, and other automobile safety systems. In the news, BMW, Ford and Mitsubishi have provided lists of vehicles that are affected by the recent expansion of the Takata air bag recalls. While the vehicle identification numbers included in these recalls are not available on the National Highway Safety Administration’s VIN lookup tool or the manufacturer’s website as of yet, the NHTSA is continuing to provide updates. provides this information:

Consumer Information on Takata National Air Bag Recalls
Takata’s expansion of their previous recalls has nearly doubled the potential number of vehicles affected to almost 34 million. Automakers are still working to verify accurate and complete lists of these vehicles; this process could take several weeks. Until the lists are complete, vehicle owners affected by the expanded recall will not be able to use their VIN to determine if their vehicle is part of this recall. As manufacturers verify their affected vehicles to NHTSA, we will provide real-time updates to our database, including lists of makes and model years affected and notifying consumers when they can begin to use NHTSA’s and manufacturers’ VIN look-up tools. NHTSA is coordinating with Takata and automakers to uphold its commitment to ensure that motorists receive information as soon as it is available.

As this recall progresses, NHTSA will organize and prioritize the replacement of the defective air bag inflators to ensure that defective inflators are replaced with safe ones as quickly as possible.

For example, NHTSA has received the list of vehicles from Mitsubishi that are affected by the recent expansion of the Takata air bag recalls. The vehicle identification numbers (VINs) included in these recalls are not yet available on NHTSA’s VIN look-up tool or the manufacturer’s Web site, but NHTSA will continue to provide updates as this information becomes available. If your vehicle is affected by this recall, follow up with the manufacturer to get interim guidance.

Recall 15V-321 for defective front passenger side air bag inflators includes:
2004-2006 model years Mitsubishi Lancer/Lancer Evolution 2004 model year Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

What areas may insurance expert witnesses consult on? They may write reports and testify on the insurance industry, commercial insurance, insurance carriers, insurance policies, and more. In Experts – They May Know What To Do and How To Do It – But Do They Know How To Deliver? , Houston attorney Nyanza Moore writes:

In a time where expert reports are more the norm than the exception, it’s important to remember that a great expert report is only as good as the expert delivering it. Delivery here is being used in the sense of delivering a timely, well written report and verbally delivering a succinct explanation of the methodology used to reach the conclusions at a deposition.

Of course, every expert isn’t expected to be Johnny Cochran – with the flow of speech that leaves the trier of fact mesmerized. It is well known that public speaking ranks high on the top ten fears most people have. Preparing an expert for a deposition should be used getting them comfortable speaking about the methodologies so they avoid giving rambling answers that draw a Daubert motion to exclude the opinion. For the engineers, meteorologists, public adjusters, CPAs, and economists helping policyholders prove their claims, here is a refresher on what the attorneys, judges and juries are looking for when they read and hear your opinions:

A Daubert motion is a specific type of motion in limine. It is raised before or during trial, to exclude the presentation of unqualified evidence to the jury. Daubert motions are used to exclude the testimony of an expert witness that does not possess the requisite level of expertise or uses questionable methods to obtain or evaluate data.

A Daubert motion is the outcome of a 1993 Supreme Court case, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.1 Rules 702 and 703 of the Federal Rules of Evidence govern the admission of scientific evidence in federal court. The rules allow expert witnesses greater leniency in their testimony because it is presumed that the expert will have a reliable basis in knowledge and expertise in his field. The Court in Daubert required that trial judges act as a “gatekeeper” and determine the scientific validity of scientific evidence before admitting it. The guidelines in the decision have been expanded to include technical and specialized knowledge testimony.
The testimony of an expert witness must pass two tests for a judge to accept:

1) Reliability:
• Empirical testing: the theory or technique must be falsifiable, refutable, and testable.; subjected to peer review and publication.
• • Known or potential error rate.
• Whether there are standards controlling the technique’s operations.
• Expert’s qualifications.
• Technique and its results be described with plain meaning.

2) Relevancy:

The relevancy of an expert’s testimony is subject to the type of question. For example, a meteorologist may be an expert witness to tell the jury there was a hurricane on the night of the alleged date of loss. However, the expert witness cannot be used to tell the jury that the insurance company adjuster is a lunatic because there was obviously a hurricane that hit the property in question. The judge must act as a gatekeeper to rule out bad testimony.

After the decision in Daubert, Rule 702 was amended to include the additional provisions which state that a witness may only testify if:
• the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data;
• the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and • the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.
Once certain evidence is excluded by a Daubert motion because it fails to meet the standard, it is unlikely that it will be used again in another trial. Even though a trial court’s ruling on a Daubert motion is not binding on other courts, if some evidence was found lacking, other judges may be persuaded by the trial court reasoning.

1 Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579 (U.S. 1993).

Ms. Moore’s areas of practice are insurance and commercial litigation. She may be reached at

In Cyberbullying, Trolling, and Cyberstalking: the Dark Side of Free Speech (part 1b), computer security expert witness Steve Burgess answers the question What is Free Speech?

Also not protected is harassment, the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands. This could include discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual preference. It could include particularly aggressive bill collecting, or some forms of blackmail
Threatening to inflict great bodily harm (“I will stab you in the eyeball,” would qualify. “I will smack you in the kisser,” would not) or death would be illegal if the person has an apparent ability to carry out the action. Idle threats would not likely be found to be illegal.

False advertising – knowingly communicating untruthful or misleading statements about a product or service is not protected. Oddly (and somewhat maddeningly), political false advertising is protected.

Some symbolic actions are unprotected if they are otherwise illegal. I might feel strongly about an issue, but tagging a building with my message would not be protected. Neither would the act of burning a cross on private property, or littering, even if it was a political statement.

Plagiarism of copyrighted material is not protected (although it may be under certain circumstances, such as if it is satire, or is partially quoted but with attribution).

So we can see that we have a broad right to expression, as long as such speech does not run afoul of certain other laws restricting particular classes of activity. And for the most part, we are free to express ourselves anonymously.

Now we have entered the Internet Age and we find that the Web can provide easy anonymity. We also find that very many feel emboldened to engage anonymously in vile, despicable and dangerous statements, without much fear of retribution for the pain and damage that their words may cause others.

When people are speaking face-to-face, it is easy to determine who it is whose speech shades (or possibly charges) over the line from protected expression into unprotected or even illegal forms of behavior. But Internet anonymity protects the offender from being identified, from witnesses being able to testify against the offender. In some cases, the speaker may not be identifiable; in others the speaker may be actually be impersonating someone else. And when anonymous, there’s not only less or little chance of being found out, there’s also less or little chance of social norms checking such behavior through public ostracism or social shame – both mechanisms that commonly keep otherwise objectionable behavior in check.

Perhaps this is why Internet trolling, cyberstalking and cyberbullying are becoming more and more widespread.

In Part 2 of this series, we will explore what these terms mean, show examples of their use, and discuss the damage their practice does.

Burgess Forensics offers computer forensic & electronic discovery and expert witness testimony since 1985.

Gasoline explosion expert witnesses may report and testify on fuel explosions, flammable materials, and tanker truck explosions. On March 26 in Huimanguillo, in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco, villagers tried to take gasoline from a tanker truck that had overturned late at night. Unfortunately, residents broke through a police perimeter and chased off firefighters in an attempt to take fuel. Eighteen people were killed in the explosion. Due to the flammability of the cargo, the possibility of survivors in the vicinity of a tanker truck accident is low. writes:

Tanker trucks are powerful vehicles that haul liquid or semi-liquid cargo in long metal containers. Examples of liquid cargo can include fuel, food products and chemicals. The cargo can often be dangerous. The liquids can be flammable, corrosive, poisonous or even explosive. Handling such cargo requires extensive safety training. Driving trucks with a heavy liquid load also requires a different touch than hauling dry goods like lumber or furniture.

In Undue Influence in Making Bequests: A Forensic Psychiatrist Examines the Evidence, undue influence expert witness Stephen M. Raffle, M.D., writes:

One of the inferences for the exertion of “undue” influence is if a close or isolative relationship existed between the testator and the proponent of the changed will or trust at the time changes are entered into. When the beneficiary/caregiver isolates the testator from his/her other natural heirs, there is an index of suspicion to the psychiatrist for undue influence.

Another circumstantial fact may be a financial relationship between the “favored” beneficiary and the testator. For example, the favored beneficiary has check-writing authority and is otherwise being empowered to take over the financial affairs of the testator. Yet other example may be the receipt of a joint tenancy interest in real property even though the property was paid for entirely by the testator, or being employed by the testator’s business (or promoted if already an employee) up to and including being made an officer of the company.

Participation in the procurement, preparation, or execution of the actual testamentary document is not an essential element of undue influence. The “favored” beneficiary need not be present at the time of the execution of a disputed testamentary document to participate in the creation or execution of the document. The participation may be proven inference. The forensic psychiatrist examines such participation when assessing undue influence. When the beneficiary personally communicates with the attorney who is drawing up the testamentary instruction, this is inferential evidence for the forensic psychiatrist to consider. Other circumstances the psychiatrist considers may include the allegedly “influencing” beneficiary meeting alone with the attorney who subsequently prepares a trust or will for the testator, and/or telling the preparer what the modifications will be. Other medical evidence is when the attorney who drafts the document is also retained by the beneficiary of the will or trust; there is a suggestion of a conflict. The psychiatrist would want to know the nature of the prior relationship with the attorney, and how the testator came to choose and rely on that attorney.

Undue profit as indicia of undue influence may be considered. In Estate of Gelonese, a testamentary disposition that does not treat a descendant’s children equally is “unnatural,” “demonstrating undue benefit to one child over the other.” The question whether the proponent unduly profited by testamentary document is resolved by the terms of the testamentary document itself.

As a psychiatric evaluator, I look at the relative complexity of the instrument which is drawn and assess the testator’s mental capacity to understand the document, as reflected by either direct or indirect evidence, e.g., deposition testimony, films/videos, medical records, and testimony from disinterested parties When a testator “trusts” a favored beneficiary to tell the testator what the will or trust means, then in my opinion there is substantial room for misrepresentation and distortion. The disproportionate trust in a beneficiary when there is an exclusion of other children of the beneficiary from the testamentary document raises the medical questions of independent action versus deception and self-dealing.

Further comments on this issue are addressed in my discussion of testamentary capacity (which may or may not be linked to undue influence).

Stephen M. Raffle, M.D., Board Certified Forensic Psychiatrist focusing on emotional distress, PTSD, chronic pain, undue influence, testamentary capacity and employment litigation (among others), with over 40 years’ experience offering expert opinion in over 5000 cases, 700+ depositions, and testifying in 150+ trials in Federal, State, Administrative and Military jurisdictions

In Cyberbullying, Trolling, and Cyberstalking: the Dark Side of Free Speech (part 1a), computer security expert witness Steve Burgess answers the question What is Free Speech?

To listen to, read, or watch the news, it is clear that there is broad misunderstanding about the right to free speech. It is not the freedom to say anything to anyone anywhere, but rather a prohibition to keep the government from denying us the right to express ourselves. The Bill of Rights asserts that we have certain freedoms simply by dint of being born human beings.

We treasure our freedoms and freedom of expression or speech is one of the most sacred. Having this right allows us to speak truth to power and to satirize fools. In fact, one of the earliest forms of protected speech may have been the Celtic bards who worked for tribal kings, satirizing poor (or opposing) rulers, but immune from retribution under Brehon law many hundreds of years ago, or even thousands of years under European Celtic tradition.

In many cases throughout history however, speaking freely has led to harassment, imprisonment and even the death of the speaker. Such events have given rise also to the protection of anonymous speech. Indeed, anonymous expression has been integral to the history and emergence of the United States itself. Although the Supreme Court has only come down firmly on the side of anonymity in recent decades, the Federalist Papers, penned anonymously at the time by Founders of our Constitution, may have only been able to bring these ideas to the public without revealing true identities of the Papers’ authors: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay.

As it turns out, free expression also gives rise to less noble speech that many would see as offensive, vile, despicable and dangerous but would still be protected. So we have learned to draw lines based in large part on whether or not there is harm. In general, you’re free to express yourself insofar as said expression does not hurt other people or break other laws.

But then, satire going back to the ancients was itself designed to hurt people – to topple kings from their high positions. So again, we find ourselves drawing lines within lines to distinguish the threshold level of harm.

In the USA the right to free expression is enshrined in, and guaranteed by, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 1st Amendment is quite succinct and reads in full:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This has come to be understood and adjudged to mean that the government can’t keep you from saying your piece, no matter how much the government, or anyone else might disagree. This applies to all government in the U.S. – Federal, State, local entities and public officials of those public entities. You are free to speak in “the Public Square.” Note that the concept of the Public Square applies only to governmental entities, property and officials. It does not apply to private or commercial property. Property owners or business owners can prohibit you from saying certain things, or from saying anything at all on or within their own property, business, or broadcasts unless it is otherwise allowed.

Also note that some broadcasts are in a gray or hybrid area. It is often asserted that the airwaves belong to the People. Corporations and private entities may use specific frequencies through the purchase of long-term, but still temporary licenses, which are sold and/or granted by the government. More on this in a later article in this series.

What kinds of speech or expression are not protected?

There are a few types of expression that are not protected and may be considered illegal by the government.

Among these are obscenity – speech which appeals to the “prurient” interest in sex, is patently offensive by community standards, and lacks literary, scientific, or artistic value. One may have noticed that pornography nonetheless is prevalent and easily accessible in print, film, and electronically. This is because the courts hold a very narrow interpretation of what can be found to be obscene and usually finds in favor of free expression – even if it is clearly pornography – over other interests opposed to pornography.

However, child pornography is not protected and is in fact, a Federal crime, likely to get the offender years in prison.

Incitement – often spoken of as “inciting to riot” – is speech that is not protected if it advocates for generating and is likely to produce ‘imminent lawless action.’ Again, the court tends to rule narrowly in such cases. I can think of many a 60’s protest song that in retrospect appears slightly shocking in its urging to violent revolution, but remained legal.

Fighting words – speech that is personally abusive to an individual and likely to induce physical retaliation (i.e., start a fight) is not protected.

Defamation, or libel, is not protected. These are intentionally false statements spoken or written in public that cause injury to an individual. “Joe Smith eats babies and so should not be allowed to work in the day care center,” might be an extreme example. The speaker could be sued in civil court by the injured party.

Knowingly lying in court, or perjury, is not protected and not legal.

Extortion of money or property from someone through the use of fear or threats is unprotected and illegal.

Burgess Forensics offers computer forensic & electronic discovery and expert witness testimony since 1985.

Immigration expert witnesses may consult on issues involving employment based immigration, green cards, immigration policy, and asylum.The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) presented Anthropologists as Expert Witnesses: Theory, Practice and Ethics at their annual meeting March 24-28. University of Cincinnati assistant professor of anthropology Leila Rodriguez has testified in immigration cases and writes:

I think the legal system’s understanding of culture is very different from how anthropologists define culture,” explains Rodriguez. The legal system often is looking for something with clear limits around it – the black-and-white answer – when most of our answers as anthropologists are gray.

Recorded sessions will be published at a rate of a couple a week, starting about two weeks after the annual meeting. Sign up to be notified via RSS or email.

Guilt, Innocence and Ethnography: Informants and Expert Witness Presenter: Jeffrey H. Cohen, The Ohio State University
Judicial Ignorance and Expert Witnesses in Asylum Cases Presenter: Murray Leaf, University of Texas at Dallas
The Epistemology of Expertise: Scientific Anthropology and Expert Witness Testimony in a Criminal Case Presenter: Leila Rodriguez, University of Cincinnati
The Role of Culture in Expert Witness Testimony: Presenter: Kendall Thu, Northern Illinois University
Expert Witness: Asylum vs. Criminal Proceedings with Central American Immigrants in U.S. Courts Presenter: Allan Burns, University of Florida
Can I Get a Witness? A Lawyer’s Perspective on the Critical Role of Experts in Saving Lives Presenter: Virginia Raymond, immigration attorney

The SfAA promotes interdisciplinary research in addressing issues affecting human beings around the world. With over 2,000 members, the society is the pre-eminent international organization in the field. The theme for the 75th annual meeting is “Continuity and Change.”

In Testamentary Capacity to Execute a Will and Mental Competency to Execute a Trust or Contract, forensic psychiatry expert witness Stephen M. Raffle, M.D., writes:

A Will is not a contract because it does not represent a promise to perform a service or execute an action for another person (including corporations). It is solely an allocation of a person’s wealth on death. A contract, such as a Trust, implies the potential for an adversarial relationship if one of the parties does not perform as promised. In a Trust the parties may be the Trustors and the Trustees. Therefore, an adversarial relationship potentially exists between the parties. Because of this potential adversarial relationship, each of the parties must be able to understand the consequences of their actions vis-à-vis being in default. This requires each party to be able to understand with meaning (mental competency) the terms and conditions of the contract which may themselves be complex and require multiple steps. For this reason the mental state required to enter into a contract requires an understanding of consequences and an ability to understand complex meanings contained within the contracted obligation, neither of which is explicit or implied in the execution of a Will.

Mental competence to enter into a contract has a higher threshold than mental competence to execute a Will. It is therefore possible for a person to retain testamentary capacity but not be competent to execute a Trust.

Stephen M. Raffle, M.D., Board Certified Forensic Psychiatrist focusing on emotional distress, PTSD, chronic pain, undue influence, testamentary capacity and employment litigation (among others), with over 40 years’ experience offering expert opinion in over 5000 cases, 700+ depositions, and testifying in 150+ trials in Federal, State, Administrative and Military jurisdictions