Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Judge Rakoff Rejects Proposed Handwriting Expert Testimony

In an opinion released May 6, in the case Almeciga v. Center for Investigative Reporting, 15-cv-4319, SDNY Judge Jed S. Rakoff granted a defense motion to exclude proposed expert handwriting analysis testimony, holding that “handwriting analysis in general is unlikely to meet the admissibility requirements of Federal Rules of Evidence 702.”  The opinion documents the development of handwriting analysis as a forensic field and its history in the courts before analyzing the Daubert and Kumho Tire factors.  See Opinion, 17-43.  The Court concludes that handwriting analysis “bears none of the indicia of science and suggests, at best, a form of subjective expertise,”  Opinion at 26.  “It remains the case,” the Court explains, “that the methodology has not been subject to adequate testing or peer review, that error rates for the task at hand are unacceptably high, and that the field sorely lacks internal controls and standards” and that “as a general matter, a court should be cautious in admitting testimony from a forensic document examiner even under the flexible approach of Kumho Tire — particularly where an examiner offers an opinion on authorship — and should not do so without carefully evaluating whether the examiner has actual expertise in regard to the specific task at hand.”  Opinion at 37.  The Court excluded the examiner’s testimony, stating that “[i]t would be an abdication of this Court’s gatekeeping role under Rule 702 to admit [the examiner’s] testimony in light of its deficiencies and unreliability.”  Opinion at 43.

Comments are closed.