Change to what types of expert testimony can be heard clears first Senate committee

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A bill that would change the way courts decide what types of expert testimony can be heard cleared its first Senate committee Monday over the objection of a trial lawyers group that says the current method works fine, and questions from senators about why the state can’t use a hybrid system.

The bill (SB 1412) would require Florida courts to use the same expert witness test used by the federal courts and 20 other states, known as the “Daubert standard,” in which judges generally are the gatekeepers of what scientific evidence is allowed to be presented in a case, rather than letting juries decide whether to believe scientific testimony. Florida, along with a handful of other states, currently use a standard known as the “Frye standard,” a 1923 test that says expert testimony must be based on science that has gained “general acceptance,” in the scientific field.

Backers of the change say that courts using the Frye standard can allow the introduction of “junk science,” though opponents have long said that under the Daubert standard lawyers can more easily keep scientific evidence out of cases for tactical reasons.

Some states use a hybrid system for deciding the admissibility of scientific testimony that falls somewhere between the two standards. “We don’t need to rush from Frye to Daubert, there are hybrids and Florida needs to look at them,’ said Sen. Arthenia Joyner. The measure to move to a Daubert standard passed the committee 6-3 and now goes to the Senate Rules Committee.

Via the News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.