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Eric Lasker Tells Rule 702 Amendments Will Help Courts Combat Scientific Skepticism

news | November 2, 2023

Hollingsworth LLP partner Eric Lasker sat down with reporter Ellen Bardash to discuss the pending amendments to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the potential impact to both future and past litigation.

The update to Rule 702, which is set to go into effect officially on Dec. 1, has raised the issue of whether it’s a long overdue way to hold judges to an evidentiary standard they should have been following for decades or if it encourages them to cross over into the jurors’ domain.

“Judges have the obligation to actually weigh the evidence and assess the evidence to determine whether it’s reliable,” said Lasker, a longtime advocate for reevaluating the rule. “That’s not unique to 702—other evidentiary rules require it as well—but I think judges with scientific or complex opinion testimony have been maybe less confident in their abilities to serve in that role, and they’ve been more willing to defer to a jury.”

In terms of how often courts are actually misapplying Rule 702, advocates for the rule change say there’s an inconsistent record that points to judges needing the additional guidance, while critics say that’s not the case. Lasker said the question of what testimony jurors should be shielded from is one that’s a key part of the discussion around the rule change.

“One of the things I’m most proud about in the effort to get the rule changed is that it provides a tool to fight back against scientific skepticism. It puts the courts in a place where they should be, which is screening out science that’s speculative or not reliable, protecting jurors from that type of testimony,” Lasker concluded.

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