Although the majority of cases do not result in a courtroom trial, an attorney will prepare his or her case as if it will do so. A document examiner serving as a witness should do the same.
After being retained by a client, I work to form an appropriate opinion based upon the evidence their documents support. Open communication with my clients is important to provide the strongest objective opinion and expert testimony possible. Frankly, there is no need for the client to discuss information unrelated to the document issue. The testimony I give will be limited to the documents examined and not include circumstantial information a client provides, unless relevant.
Familiarity with the reporting requirements and testimony in different jurisdictions is important. The report format I prepare in a Federal Court case will differ from the report structure used in certain state courts. Similarly, reports and testimony for courts in Canada, and countries in the Caribbean, differ from U.S. Federal Court protocols.
If the case proceeds to a trial or hearing, a pre-trial conference with the client’s attorney is essential. The specific points the attorney would like to elicit from my testimony would be discussed in addition to general questions he or she would ask.
At trial, the court must first recognize a witness as an expert in their profession before the witness is allowed to give opinion testimony.
In cases where I’ve given a testimony, the attorney will develop a foundation to qualify me as an expert in Forensic Document Examination (or specifically a signature expert or handwriting expert). The attorney will ask questions regarding my initial training, ongoing training, certification, professional memberships, proficiency testing and experience. It is a necessary process to enable me, or any other expert witness, to render ‘opinion’ testimony.
As mentioned before, the majority of cases, civil or criminal, are resolved prior to a trial. However, if a trial is necessary, give careful consideration to the qualifications of the expert that will represent you.