2 December 2005

Expert evidence: you think you're confused!

I came across this ruling of Weinberg J in Australian Retailers Association v Reserve Bank of Australia where he excludes evidence from an academic expert because he just couldn't understand it!

If I am wrong in holding that Professor Farrell’s evidence was insufficiently relevant to warrant admissibility, I would nonetheless exclude that evidence in the exercise of my discretion. I would do so pursuant to s 135 of the Evidence Act, on the basis that, read as a whole, it is confusing. Having attempted, I believe assiduously, to understand the gist of Professor Farrell’s evidence, as set out in his various reports, I regret to say that I cannot make a great deal of sense of considerable parts of that evidence. ...

I have only the vaguest notion of what this [explanation and formula] means. ...

Once again, this [further explanation and formula] means nothing to me. In making that observation, I do not intend to cast any doubts upon Professor Farrell’s technical expertise. Plainly, I am in no position to do so. To be fair, the mathematical formulae set out above were in technical appendices. Perhaps Professor Farrell assumed that any judge hearing a matter of this kind would be able to understand material presented in this manner. If so, he was mistaken, at least as far as I am concerned. I regret to say that evidence presented to a court in this form is likely to be unhelpful, and really should not be adduced. The technical appendices provide a significant part of the rationale for Professor Farrell’s conclusions, which are themselves not altogether easy to follow. Having regard to the difficulty that I have in understanding Professor Farrell’s reasoning, I propose to exclude his evidence in-chief in its entirety. I am prepared, however, to have regard to those parts of his evidence, under cross-examination, that I was able to understand.

See the full extract (including the confusing explanations!) in pdf

1 comment:

Red said...

This is hilarious. I wish I could use the same reasoning in some of my exam papers.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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