The Daubert Amendment
In a 4-2 vote, the Florida Supreme Court has declined to adopt the Daubert Amendment, which had been previously approved by the state legislature in 2013 to replace the Frye standard. The Frye and Daubert standards are ways to assess the admissibility of expert opinion in court.
The Daubert Amendment was touted by lawmakers as a measure to align state and federal standards on the admissibility of expert witnesses, but a majority of the Supreme Court felt the Amendment could unconstitutionally hinder the right to a trial by jury and impede access to the courts.
Opponents of Daubert argued that the one-factor Frye standard worked well and the more detailed Daubert standard would overtax an already underfunded Florida state court system by requiring courts to hold mini-trials to determine whether or not to admit expert testimony.
As defined by the Cornell University Law School, the Daubert Standard is used by a trial judge to make a preliminary assessment of whether an expert’s scientific testimony is based on reasoning or methodology that is scientifically valid and can properly be applied to the facts at issue. Under this standard, the factors that may be considered in determining whether the methodology is valid are:
(1) whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested,
(2) whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication,
(3) its known or potential error rate,
(4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation, and
(5) whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community.
In contrast the Frye standard or the Frye test provides the admissibility of expert opinion if the technique is generally accepted as reliable in the scientific community.
Dissenting on the court’s ruling, Justice Ricky Polston stated that worries about the unconstitutionality of Daubert are unfounded since it has been the standard for federal courts since 1993 (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.)
“Has the entire federal court system for the last 23 years as well as 36 states denied parties’ rights to a jury trial and access to courts? Do only Florida and a few other states have a constitutionally sound standard for the admissibility of expert testimony? Of course not.”
Justice Ricky Polston