Expert Witness Standard Rejected And Next Supreme Court Justices

By: Carolyn Johnson

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday once again rejected the Florida Legislature’s efforts to improve Florida’s expert witness standard to the Daubert standard. In a 4-3 opinion in Richard Delisle vs. Crane Co.,the Florida Supreme Court rejected the Daubert standard passed in 2013 by the Florida Legislature – thus maintaining the weaker Frye standard. The Florida Supreme Court had previously ruled against amending the Evidence Code to the higher Daubert standard.

“We recognize that Frye and Daubert are competing methods for a trial judge to determine the reliability of expert testimony before allowing it to be admitted into evidence,” Justice Peggy Quince wrote in the majority opinion.  “With our decision today, we reaffirm that Frye, not Daubert, is the appropriate test in Florida courts.”

In 2013, the Florida Legislature passed HB 7015 – a Florida Chamber-backed bill that would have rejected the Frye standard in favor of Daubert.  This evidence standard is used in federal court and in 36 other states, and would have only allowed expert testimony if it met a three-pronged test.  In the Crane opinion, justices argued that the Legislature had exceeded its authority and only the Supreme Court has the authority to “adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts.”

Also, on Monday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the next Governor – not current Governor Rick Scott – has the authority to appoint three new justices to the Supreme Court. The forthcoming vacancies result from three justices reaching mandatory retirement age.  The important issue of when the Judicial Nominating Commission can certify its nominations will be the issue of oral arguments on November 8, 2018.  This means the stakes for the 2018 Governor’s race are even higher, because the next Governor has the potential to change the makeup of the Florida Supreme Court for the next several decades.

The Stakes Are High

Join the Florida Chamber’s efforts to help elect candidates that support jobs, Florida’s economy and Florida’s families. Contact Marian Johnson at 850-521-1241 or mjohnson@flchamber.com to help make a difference in the homestretch of Florida’s governor’s race.