Posts tagged as:

expert witnesses

AconitumFollowing the unexplained death of a gardener at a millionaire’s estate in Hampshire, England, a coroner has been told that it is more likely than not that brushing against the poisonous common garden plant aconitum, known variously as wolfsbane or monkshood, must have caused the man’s decease. [Independent]

Maggie Bloom, who is representing the family, said in the pre-inquest hearing yesterday that the initial blood sample had been destroyed – despite being against hospital policy – and that later samples that were retained could be useless as the poison leaves the body within a day.

{ 6 comments }

“Judge overturns arson/murder conviction of man jailed 24 years” [Scranton Times-Tribune, Monroe County, Pa.; earlier on faulty arson forensics (Willingham execution and Texas Monthly article)]

New questions about the work in a shaken-baby-conviction case of Steven Hayne, the controversial state medical examiner whose work has been much defended by Mississippi Attorney General and perennial Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood. [Radley Balko, Washington Post; earlier on Hayne and on shaken baby cases]

{ 2 comments }

After the spectacular crash of a Porsche Carrera GT killed driver Roger Rodas and his passenger, Hollywood actor Paul Walker, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol investigated and concluded that the crash was due not to mechanical problems but to unsafe speeds of up to 94 mph; the vehicle crashed into three trees. Longtime Overlawyered favorite attorney Mark Geragos “said he hired the top experts in the country” for an unbiased evaluation. The resulting wrongful death lawsuit by Kristine M. Rodas against automaker Porsche “says her husband was driving at 55 mph” contrary to the official version. [New York Post]

{ 8 comments }

April 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 15, 2014

  • “Nullification” a non-starter, but states do have ways to resist federal encroachment [Amy Pomeroy, Libertas Utah, with podcast] Passport to Baraboo? State GOP resolutions committee backs “Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
  • Flawed forensics: “DUI expert pleads no contest to perjury charges, gets house arrest and probation” [PennLive]
  • “Insurance: The Musical” turned out to be an April Fool’s, a pity since I was looking forward to the actuary production number [Insurance Journal, but see (David Skurnick, "Cut My Rate," set in California Insurance Department) and more ("The Sting")]
  • Executive power grab? New F.H. Buckley book on “The Rise of Crown Government in America” [Tyler Cowen, with Canada comparison]
  • My appearance on Anne Santos’s radio show discussing lawsuit culture [KNTH]
  • If General Motors objects to direct consumer sales freedom for Tesla, perhaps the answer is to set GM free too [Dan Crane, Truth on the Market; James Surowiecki/New Yorker, Adam Hartung via Stephen Bainbridge]
  • James Maxeiner on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure after 75 years [Common Good]

{ 1 comment }

Courts rebuff EEOC again

by Walter Olson on April 10, 2014

I’ve got a new post up at Cato (“Sixth Circuit: You’re Drunk, EEOC, Go Home“) on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s spectacular loss yesterday at the Sixth Circuit in the Kaplan case. As I comment, the victory for the defendant is

all the more impressive because one of the three judges on the opinion is liberal lion Damon Keith, about as sympathetic a judicial ear as the EEOC could normally hope for. It’s a sharp setback for the agency’s dubious “disparate impact” campaign against employer use of credit and criminal records in hiring. And it’s also part of a pattern of rebuffs and defeats the EEOC has been dealt by judges across the country since President Obama turned the agency on a sharp leftward course with his appointments.

The Sixth Circuit has actually been one of the EEOC’s better circuits in recent years. For example, it reversed a Michigan federal judge who in 2011 had awarded $2.6 million in attorneys’ fees to Cintas, the employee-uniform company, and reinstated the lawsuit. In doing so, the appellate panel nullified what had been the lower court’s findings of “egregious and unreasonable conduct” by the agency, including a “reckless sue first, ask questions later strategy.” The commission hailed the reversal as one of its big legal wins — although when one of your big boasts is getting $2.6 million in sanctions against you thrown out, it might be that you don’t have much to brag about.

For some other recent EEOC courtroom setbacks, check our roundup of last month. If you wonder why the commission persists in its extreme aggressiveness anyway, one answer may be that the strategy works: most defendants settle, and the commission hauled in a record $372 million in settlements last year. Yet here and there, as with Kaplan, defendants decide to put up a fight, with instructive results. When will Congress begin to hold the commission accountable? More: Hans Bader, CEI.

{ 2 comments }

  • New insight into Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) casts doubt on criminal convictions [Radley Balko, earlier here, etc.]
  • “The Shadow Lengthens: The Continuing Threat of Regulation by Prosecution” [James Copland and Isaac Gorodetski, Manhattan Institute]
  • Police busts of “johns” thrill NYT’s Kristof [Jacob Sullum, earlier on the columnist]
  • Sasha Volokh series on private vs. public prisons [Volokh]
  • “Police agencies have a strong financial incentive to keep the drug war churning.” [Balko on Minnesota reporting]
  • Forfeiture: NYPD seizes innocent man’s cash, uses it to pad their pensions [Institute for Justice, Gothamist] “Utah lawmakers quietly roll back asset forfeiture reforms” [Balko] “The Top 6 Craziest Things Cops Spent Forfeiture Money On” [IJ video, YouTube]
  • After Florida trooper nabbed Miami cop for driving 120 mph+, 80 officers accessed her private info [AP]
  • Still money left in that piggy bank: Justice Department shakes $1.7 billion out of J.P. Morgan because its custody wing kept handling a primary Bernie Madoff account while a distant equity desk grew suspicious of him, in what “looks a bit like a tax on bigness and integration” [Matt Levine, Bloomberg; NPR].
  • Legacy of TARP one of cronyism and lawlessness [Mark Calabria, USA Today]
  • NYT assails a couple of academics as mouthpieces for Wall Street, Felix Salmon has a bit to say about that [Reuters, EconBrowser, Bainbridge, Pirrong] Daniel Fisher on a possible tie-in with Times reporter David Kocieniewski’s earlier piece flaying Goldman Sachs over aluminum warehousing [Forbes]
  • “Court Receptive to Overturning SEC’s Conflict Minerals Disclosure Rule” [Fed Soc Blog]
  • “Target Breach — Are Dodd-Frank ‘Swipe Fee’ Price Controls to Blame?” [John Berlau, CEI "Open Market"] “Volcker Rule Overshoots Wall Street to Hit Utah” [same]
  • “CFPB and Disparate Impact” [Hester Peirce, Point of Law]
  • “It might cost you $39K to crowdfund $100K under the SEC’s new rules” [Sherwood Neiss, VentureBeat via @jerrybrito]
  • Here’s a novel proposal for corporate governance: use the rules agreed upon by the original parties to the transaction [Hodak]

{ 5 comments }

December 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 23, 2013

  • Metro-North train crash spurs calls for mandatory crash-prevention devices. Think twice [Steve Chapman]
  • BP sues attorney Mikal Watts [Insurance Journal] Exaggerated Gulf-spill claims as a business ethics issue [Legal NewsLine]
  • Pot-war fan: “Freedom also means the right not to be subjected to a product I consider immoral” [one of several Baltimore Sun letters to the editor in reaction to my piece on marijuana legalization, and Gregory Kline's response]
  • Aaron Powell, The Humble Case for Liberty [Libertarianism.org]
  • Allegation: lawprof borrowed a lot of his expert witness report from Wikipedia [Above the Law]
  • Frivolous “sovereign citizen” lawsuits on rise in southern Jersey [New Jersey Law Journal, earlier]
  • Star of Hitchcock avian thriller had filed legal malpractice action: “Tippi Hedren wins $1.5 million in bird-related law suit” [Telegraph]

{ 2 comments }

Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on November 27, 2013

  • “In a nationally representative sample, higher patient satisfaction was associated with…increased mortality.” [White Coat/BirdStrike]
  • Low premiums! Few glitches! Larger states “working faithfully to implement the law with as few glitches as possible”! New Yorker’s Oct. 7 “Talk of the Town” on ACA’s smooth launch is a retrospective hoot;
  • Massachusetts Nurses Association goes all Venezuelan on hospital governance [Ira Stoll]
  • “Can a healthcare provider make an arbitration agreement with patients for resolving future malpractice disputes?” [Alex Stein]
  • “FDA Proposal To Curb Painkiller Overdose Deaths Would Add Burdens For Pain Patients” [Radley Balko]
  • Georgia DUI expert in hot water [PennLive] “Deconstructing the mechanical engineer” [Manhattan; Eric Turkewitz]
  • “FDA Suspension of Ponatinib: Serious Problem, Wrong Solution” [Richard Epstein, leukemia drug]
  • “Missouri Lawmakers Override Veto to Enact Good Samaritan Law” [Michael Cannon, Cato]

{ 1 comment }

Procedure roundup

by Walter Olson on September 12, 2013

I just posted a few days ago about the many scandals of state police forensic labs that have been found to employ corner-cutting or shoddy methods in the course of obtaining positive identifications and convictions. What I didn’t realize is that — according to a new paper by Roger Koppl and Meghan Sacks in the journal Criminal Justice Ethics — many crime labs actually are paid by the conviction. That practice goes on in states that include Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia. If we incentivize false-positive identification, should we really be surprised when it happens? [Radley Balko]

{ 4 comments }

Mark Hansen in the ABA Journal with an overview of how crime labs have finally come under scrutiny following a “string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results” in Boston, New York, North Carolina, Nassau County, N.Y. and elsewhere.

In St. Paul, Minn., assistant public defender Lori Traub stumbled into her local lab’s problems and

says she was horrified by what she found: The lab, an old-fashioned “cop shop,” was run by a police sergeant with no scientific background, had no written operating procedures, didn’t clean instruments between testing, allowed technicians unlimited access to the drug vault, and didn’t have anyone checking anyone else’s work. Analysts didn’t know what a validity study was, used Wikipedia as a technical reference, and in their lab reports referred to “white junk” clogging an instrument.

It gets much worse. A West Virginia state serologist, following the DNA clearance of a man he had previously identified as a rapist, “was eventually found to have falsified test results in as many as 134 cases during a 10-year period.” Oklahoma City Police Department crime lab chemist Joyce Gilchrist

who testified as a prosecution expert in 23 death penalty cases, including those of 12 inmates who were later executed, was fired in 2001 for doing sloppy work and giving false or misleading testimony. Nicknamed “Black Magic” by detectives for her seeming ability to get lab results no other chemist could, Gilchrist was never prosecuted for her alleged misdeeds, though she reportedly was named a defendant in at least one lawsuit against the city by a convicted rapist who was later exonerated.

More: And according to a new paper, it turns out that many state police labs are actually paid per conviction, a practice that tends to incentive false-positive error.

{ 3 comments }

Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2013

{ 1 comment }

Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on June 6, 2013

  • New ACA regulations from the feds restrict employer wellness programs [Jon Hyman; Leslie Francis, Bill of Health]
  • Frequent-flyer defense medical examiner comes to grief in New York [Eric Turkewitz]
  • Fecal transplants (that’s not a misprint) appear to hold out hope of saving a lot of lives, except for the mountain of FDA paperwork blocking them [Amar Toor/The Verge, Maggie Koerth-Baker] Enter the grey market [Beth Skwarecki]
  • Why can’t the FDA catch up with Europe on sunscreens? [Alex Tabarrok]
  • “The banning of catastrophic-only plans infuriates me the most…. the only plans that are actually financially sensible for a healthy individual to purchase.” [MargRev comments section]
  • More on the recent study of malpractice suits by a group of Johns Hopkins researchers [Christopher Robinette]
  • For all his public health pretensions, Michael Bloomberg “has no idea what he’s talking about” on medical marijuana [Jacob Sullum]
  • Another look at asylums? [James Panero, City Journal]
  • Feds’ war on Google pharma ads reflects no credit on D.C. [Brian Doherty]

{ 2 comments }

As grist for expert witness testimony and forensics, mathematics sounds as if it should be more rigorous and amenable to consistent results than other disciplines — psychiatry, say. “However, mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez argue in Math on Trial that in at least 10 instances over the past century, innocent or wrongly accused defendants have been imprisoned or publicly harassed in part due to simple mathematical errors at trial, such as believing two events are independent (when they are not) or underappreciating the power of exponential growth.” [Bharath Parthasarathy, Washington Independent Review of Books]

{ 2 comments }

  • Forensics scandal keeps widening, as FBI agents trained state and local examiners in faulty methods [WaPo, Radley Balko] New York Times wades into case of Mississippi pathologist Steven Hayne [Reason] “Massachusetts Lab Scandal Leads to Fears of the Guilty Being Freed, Not So Much About the Innocent Being Jailed” [Shackford]
  • “Speed camera reform gains momentum with Maryland lawmakers” [Washington Examiner, editorial, WBAL]
  • “Gas masks, helmets for state alcohol-control agents — Everyone is a law-enforcement agent these days” [Steven Greenhut/PSI]
  • How the media hatched the “bath salts face-chewer” tale [Sullum]
  • “FBI investigating Utah state trooper for arresting sober people, charging them with DUI, lying on witness stand.” [@radleybalko summarizing Salt Lake City Tribune]
  • Looking forward to 2013 docket in white-collar crime [Peter Henning, NYT DealBook]
  • Bruce Green (Fordham), “Prosecutors and Professional Regulation” [SSRN via White Collar Crime Prof]

“In answers to interrogatories, [the mesothelioma-diagnosed] plaintiff identified Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder as the sole source of her asbestos exposure.” [Ron Miller]