Document Expert Testimony-Who Qualifies as an Expert?

Approximately 95% of pending lawsuits will settle before trial.  However, roughly 40 million lawsuits are filed in the U.S. each year.  Even if only 5% reach a courtroom, about 2 million cases will go to trial annually.  In many of these cases, attorneys for the plaintiff and/or the defendant will call witnesses to provide expert testimony.  A forensic document examiner may be called to provide expert testimony in cases involving charges of falsified documents, forged signatures, threatening letters, or other document issues.  So, who qualifies as an expert in document examination?  Read on to learn why handwriting experts are called upon frequently to serve as expert witnesses.

Rule 702: Defining Expert Witnesses

Federal Rule 702, governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence, addresses using expert witnesses in lawsuits.  The Rule states:

“If scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.”

Therefore, a document examiner must prove extensive knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to be accepted as an expert witness by the courts. 

Extensive Knowledge

To present an expert opinion at trial, a document examiner must demonstrate significant knowledge in the field. A forensic document examiner may prove this knowledge by providing their professional experience and training.

For example, a forensic document examiner will testify to their initial training as well as their ongoing education.  Examples of training may include:

  • Apprenticeship under the supervision of a senior document examiner.
  • Training with other agencies or at workshops.
  • Training received at professional conferences. 

Previous Experience as an Expert Witness

Giving testimony can be a stressful experience for anyone.  Expert testimony is no exception.  If you are considering hiring a document examiner to analyze documents and provide expert testimony, ask about their previous courtroom experience.  Has the expert testified in multiple jurisdictions, such as state, federal, and/or foreign courts?  How many times have they provided expert opinions in court?  An experienced expert will be beneficial to your case, so don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Applicable Certifications and Memberships

Because all expert witnesses may be challenged by opposing counsel, a handwriting expert must establish their qualifications.  An important aspect of the expert’s curriculum vitae is their Certification with the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners.  

Additionally, the document examiner should maintain memberships in professional organizations such as the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences – Questioned Document Section and the regional organizations that also require a minimum two-year apprenticeship period.  

Expert Testimony: Forensic Document & Handwriting Examiner

Forensic Document Examiner James A. Green has provided expert testimony in more than 140 trials in various state and federal courts, as well as Canada.  Mr. Green is Certified by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners.  He is an active member of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences-Questioned Document Section, and the Southwest Association of Forensic Document Examiners. To learn more about expert witness services provided by James A. Green, call 888-485-0832 or send us a message today.