Every ASQDE meeting is worth attending. They are great fun with lots of useful and interesting content. Unfortunately, I could not make it to the 2016 ASQDE conference held in Pensacola, Florida. Nonetheless I managed to participate, albeit via Skype.
One of the activities at the conference was a panel discussion discussing “Approaches to Evaluation and Reporting of Expert Evidence” and I was invited to participant with three other people. It was a very interesting session…
What is certification? In my opinion professional certification is a designation that indicates the holder of the certification has appropriate and adequate qualifications to do some particular, generally well-defined, job or task. As an example I am a forensic document examiner and I have received professional certification from the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, Inc.
An internet search for ‘certification’ produces a huge list of possibilities, with more such programs being developed all the time as people become attuned to issues of quality and competency. Indeed, almost every profession has some type of certification and a few have several (consider all of the ‘certifications’ in the computing industry). Most, if not all, certification programs are aimed at improving the quality in a given profession by setting minimum standards for the job. The basic idea is that someone meeting or exceeding those standards will produce quality output on the job. Certification programs are generally created or are administered by a professional society, a college or university, or some private body set up expressly for that purpose.
Forensic Document Examination is no exception so it may be worthwhile discussing certification options as well as the pros and cons that I see for those options.
When someone “opens a can of worms” it usually spells trouble. For many people, that phrase evokes a powerful image of a writhing mess of worms escaping from a previously-sealed, but now opened, can or container. With the result of such action being serious problems for the owner of said can, often problems of an unanticipated or uncertain nature. In the context of our work as Forensic Document Examiners I sometimes hear this in discussions of how to handle questions on the stand. The advice goes along the lines of ‘keep your answers simple and say as little as possible in order to limit any opportunity for questions from the other side.’
It is suggested that lengthy or complex answers will only lead to more questions and more discussion. The latter are the proverbial “can of worms” that one must strive to avoid opening.
That makes little sense to me.
It is safe to say that pretty much everyone working in the forensic sciences has heard of the Daubert ruling or, more specifically, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993). It was a pivotal ruling that, together with two subsequent rulings General Electric Co. v Joiner, 522 U.S. 136 (1997) and Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999), has greatly affected many legal jurisdictions in the United States. And, as is often the case, what happens in the USA also tends to have influence elsewhere.
A few years later in Canada there was a key Supreme Court of Canada ruling that addressed admissibility of forensic expertise — R. v. Mohan,  2 S.C.R. 9. That is the ruling which laid out the test for the admissibility of ‘novel’ expert evidence (see Mohan, page 4) in Canada. Subsequently, the factors explained in that ruling have been applied, just as those in Daubert were, to many types of traditional forensic science evidence. It is rather ironic that rulings intended to liberalise the admission of new (and potentially) helpful evidence would lead to challenges of all forms and types of evidence.