The admissibility of expert testimony is a hot topic in the New Jersey legal world right now. A report from the court’s Committee on the Rules of Evidence has confirmed that the case law does not match the court rules on the books, and the New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Townsend v. Pierre only increases the differences.
In Townsend, the high court reaffirmed its commitment to the “net opinion rule,” which “is a corollary of N.J.R.E. 703 which forbids the admission into evidence of an expert’s conclusions that are not supported by factual evidence or other data. The rule requires that an expert give the why and wherefore that supports the opinion, rather than a mere conclusion.” (internal citations and quotations omitted).
We agree with the court’s ruling – opinions not based on facts should not be admitted – but suggest that case law and unwritten corollaries are inadequate to govern the intricacies of expert opinion evidence.
The court should take the opportunity presented by the Committee on the Rules of Evidence’s report to amend the court’s rules to join the vast majority of states which have moved toward the Daubert standards employed by the federal court system.
Consistent rules result in consistent outcomes, which enhance fairness and predictability, the hallmarks of a legal system built on the rule of law.
If you believe as we do that our state must amend its evidentiary rules if it hopes to keep junk science out of the courtroom and stem the tide of out-of-state plaintiffs flooding into the state, now is the time to speak up. The court is now accepting comments on the Committee on the Rules of Evidence’s report.