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February 17, 2017

FL Supreme Court Opts to Overturn Legislature, Weaken Expert Evidence Standards

When Florida’s paltry 44th lawsuit climate ranking was announced in 2015, Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson said the state’s Supreme Court’s penchant for overturning the legislature’s legal reforms were a big reason why.

“Here in Florida, our courts — our Supreme Court and other courts — continue to overturn and undo the good work that the Florida legislature has done,” said Wilson in a video for ILR’s Faces of Lawsuit Abuse campaign.

Well, the Florida Supreme Court has done it again — opting (in a 4-2 ruling) this week to overturn the Florida legislature’s 2013 law that adopted the strict “Daubert” expert evidence standards in the state’s courts.

The Daubert standard is crucial in keeping junk science out of courtrooms. ILR President Lisa A. Rickard recently wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the importance of the Daubert Standard.

“The Daubert standard is the law in 40 other states and U.S. federal courts,” wrote Rickard. “It measures scientific expertise on common-sense factors, such as: Is the evidence being admitted in court relevant to the facts of the case at hand? Are the conclusions of a scientific study seen as reliable by scientists other than those who conducted the study? And, were the study’s findings reached using broadly accepted scientific methods?”

William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, echoed Rickard’s sentiments in a press statement issued after the Florida court’s ruling.

“The Florida Supreme Court seems to be implying the entire federal court system for the last 23 years has been denying a citizens’ right to a jury trial and access to the courts, through the use of the federal Daubert standard,” said Large. “If that is the case, why has the Florida Supreme Court been citing federal courts for constitutional precedent for the past 23 years?”

Justices Ricky Polston and Charles Canady both dissented in the case. Polston’s written dissent echoed Rickard’s and Large’s statements that the federal court system and other states have used the Daubert standard for years.

“Has the entire federal court system for the last 23 years as well as 36 states denied parties’ rights to a jury trial and access to courts?” wrote Polston. “Do only Florida and a few other states have a constitutionally sound standard for the admissibility of expert testimony? Of course not.”

Of course not, indeed.

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