10 Things: Observations from Court

I spent a lot of time in trial in 2013. Probably more than any other year, in fact. In doing so, there are some issues I have noticed that come up repeatedly. I figured I’d share some of those today, particularly because it’s one of those things I’m asked to discuss pretty frequently when talking with medical folks about testimony. So for your reading pleasure, a new 10 Things list: Observations from Court:

  1. Cataloging injuries is not the same as performing a medical-forensic exam.
  2. If you are not currently seeing patients then you must be able to demonstrate how else you remain current in practice in order to be credible as an expert witness.
  3. Just because the form you use doesn’t have a place for it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be asked/written down.
  4. You should be able to provide a clinical rationale for every question you ask and every step you take in examining the patient.
  5. Just because you heard it at a conference doesn’t mean it’s true.
  6. Just because you heard it from someone with a name more famous than yours doesn’t mean it’s true.
  7. Getting snippy with counsel on cross is usually a losing proposition. Nothing positive can ever come from it, but plenty of negative can. {Note from my prosecutor spouse: Remember they’ve had days to build rapport with the jury; you’ve had minutes. Also, counsel can characterize you any way they choose during closing arguments and there’s nothing you can do to rebut it. So be professional.}
  8. Doing an exam the exact same way every single time is not something to which you should aspire. A truly patient-centered process makes this impossible.
  9. Making assumptions about a fellow clinician based on education alone is a mistake, every single time. This is especially true if said clinician is a witness for opposing counsel.     
  10. If you bend the science to fit the needs of the side that has hired you, that choice will ultimately come back to haunt you.

By the way–these make total sense in my brain, but may require greater explanation for some. Let me know if there are any you’d like to see me expound upon in future posts.

6 replies on “10 Things: Observations from Court”

(Love the title of this box: “speak your mind”).
I cannot tell you how much I get from your blog and how much I share with students and colleagues and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. I could comment everyday because your information is so rich, but I refrain, except today. I have to say I was literally taught #8, about doing the same thing the same way (to decrease ommissions and commissions, blah, blah, blah). And as a WHNP I know one size does not fit all and the fact that we are all different is what makes us need to strive to understand variables of normal and responding to the patient, where they are, not being dictated by completing a form. All this to say, bravo Jen for ALWAYS thining outside the box! On a personal note I hope you and Sasha are doing something at IAFN in October–how about one of those 4 hour workshops? Or a couple of them. (Let’s face it we know you never sleep and your mind never stops).

Thanks, Pamela, for the lovely words. I believe Sasha and I will be doing a testimony workshop again (just 1, 4-hr block this time), plus we submitted an abstract, so we’ll see if that gets accepted. Looking forward to seeing you this fall!

Dear Jen,

I did what Pam Tabor says! These are such excellent suggestions. I am sharing with my prosecutors and my ENA forensic FNE.
Jen I am soooooo forward looking to your lecture in April in Indianapolis on April 24th. Thank you for this great insight and recommendations.


This is my first time at your blog. Heard about it fromt the wonderful Barb Bachmeier. I love your comments here. Putting on another SANE class this August (did first one last fall) and will definately take this to there. Was taught #8 and have been passing it along, but will totally get rid of that now. What you say makes so much sense, don’t know why it never came to mind before. Keep up the excellent work and hope to be able to make it to Indy in April to see you.
Thanks, Cheryl

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