1997 Medical & Forensic Experts Conference

December 6-7, 1997, Newport Beach, CA


The fourth annual Medcial & Forensic Experts Conference brought together a sophisticated group of physicians, experts, judges, and trial attorneys from as far away as Alaska. Despite the presence of El Niño outside, the lecture hall was filled with a warm, collegial group of highly motivated professionals dedicated to improving the legal system, and learning more about Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals and its impact on the admission of scientific/medical evidence in the courts.



The Keynote Address: Is Daubert Really Working? was presented by the Honorable Martin L. C. Feldman, US District Judge, from the Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Feldman described his reliance on Federal Rule of Evidence 702, and briefly described the implications of Joiner v. General Electric Co., which was still under review by the Supreme Court (as GE v. Joiner) and was decided a week later, on December 15, 1997 (see: WL 76-4563). In that decision, the Supreme Court held "that abuse of discretion is the proper standard by which to review a district court's decision to admit or exclude scientific evidence". We all thank Judge Feldman for sharing his insights with us, and for validating the need to educate experts about the law.



Our second speaker was The Honorable Gordon R. Melson, Chief Presiding Judge of the South-Central Oklahoma Judicial Administrative Zone, who discussed: Qualifying as an Expert in State Court: The Impact of Daubert. Judge Melson reviewed many state court decisions in which Daubert was applied both correctly and incorrectly. He then explained the difference between admissibility and sufficiency of evidence for the benefit of the predominantly "expert", non-attorney audience. This was one of the finest presentations on Daubert any of us has had an opportunity to hear, and we extend our sincere gratitude to Judge Melson for preparing such a comprehensive bibliography for the conference syllabus, and for his dedication to teaching.



Our third speaker, Craig L. Feldbaum, Ph.D., was taken ill and could not attend. However, we were fortunate to have Ms. Rita Lord contribute her articulate presentation on Qualifying as a Non-Scientific Expert Based on Experience, Training, Technical, or Other Specialized Knowledge. Rita is a document examiner, an often misunderstood profession that is frequently the subject of negative criticism. However, there was nothing negative about Rita's excellent presentation in which she reminded the audience of the acronym SKEET, which stands for specialized knowledge, education, experience, and training, the basic elements described in Federal Rule of Evidence 702 upon which a proffered witness may be qualified as an expert. Great work, Rita, and thanks for the new mnemonic!


Saturday afternoon, conference attendees had an opportunity to spend one hour with each of three expert trainers in courtroom communications, Betsy Whitaker, Esq., and psychologists Stan Brodsky, Ph.D., and Ann Greeley, Ph.D.



Trial attorney Betsy Whitaker told everyone, "Don't Relinquish Your Power as an Expert". She then went on to empower the attendees with an understanding of what lawyers try to accomplish with their questions and conduct an eye-opening, interactive session which permitted experts with a rare opportunity to "get a peek at opposing counsel's legal pad of questions". Betsy is a rare combination of grace, charm, wit and knowledge, and we all thank her for her contributions to our education.



Stan Brodsky, Ph.D., author of Testifying in Court - Guidelines & Maxims, provided experts an opportunity to explore their concerns about testifying, and assisted volunteers in developing their communication skills and overcoming their perceived limitations. Participants gained new insights about themselves and acquired an improved sense of self-confidence about their communication skills.



Psychologist and Jury Analyst Ann Greeley, Ph.D., provided experts with insight into what jurors like and don't like about experts. All in all, an insightful look at experts from the perspective of the most important people in the courtroom, the jury!



Our Sunday morning session began with an outstanding presentation by trial attorney Brian C. Gonzalez, Esq. on Surviving A "Daubert Challenge". In this superb presentation, Brian told the assembly of experts not to fear a Duabert Hearing, but to prepare completely and to remember the three most important factors in surviving a pre-trial "Daubert Hearing": publish, publish, publish. Brain, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you!


Lastly, we come to the portion of the program most attendees rated as their favorite, the communication drills and "Mock Depositions".



Here Dr. Benjamin works with four distinguished experts and solicits input from the audience. Although you know the answer to most of the difficult technical questions an attorney asks, there is no substitute for listening attentively to the questions.


As you can see from the look on everyone's face, maintaining your concentration and employing Active Listening skills are the keys to understanding an attorney's question, so that you can clearly convey your response to the jury.

Copies of the conference syllabus and video tapes of the sessions are available from Dr. Benjamin. Please contact Dr. Benjamin at medlaw@doctorbenjamin.com.


Also see pictures from 1996's Conference!