Handwriting Expert Ethics & Responsibility for Forensic Document Examiners
Special Contribution by the Faculty of the International School of Forensics
A forensic document examiner is expected at all times to be: a non-advocate, non-bias, non-spurious, non-prejudice, impartial, skillful, informed, reputable, truthful, reliable, dedicated, publicized, thick-skinned, dynamic, qualified, an author, studious, competent, with integrity and wisdom, and of course ethical.
Operating in a judicial system that is dependent upon advocacy and a world full of wars and rumors of wars (that’s Biblical, huh), how do we reconcile the conflicts which confront us at our every move, every case, every relationship and the ever changing moral and ethical challenges? Especially now that we have taken on a new role as an expert, we are expected, even more, required, to be better. During the course of our expert QDE career, we will, indeed be in conflict with many of these ethical questions. Who defines or demands such requirements of you and your ethics? (more…)
On Dec. 1, 2010, a major change took effect in the federal rule governing expert witness reports, giving draft reports the protection of the work-product doctrine and exempting them from mandatory disclosure. At the time, attorneys and experts hailed the change as a long-overdue step that would reduce both the cost and contentiousness of litigation.
Now, having had six months to live with the new rule, the assessment of many attorneys and experts remains favorable but somewhat muted. While there is general agreement that the change was for the better and has simplified the process to a degree, most attorneys and experts report that the actual impact on their practices has been negligible. (more…)
TAKING THE WITNESS STAND
6 Keys to Being An Effective Expert Witness
THE FUNDAMENTAL STEP – 1 PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE
This video was designed for working document examiners who want more business and want to Advertise or improve the advertising effectiveness of their key word campaigns on sites such as google.com/adwords and Bing. (more…)
February 09, 2012
D.C. Appeals Court Upholds Use of Handwriting Evidence
Handwriting analysis will continue to be admissible as scientific evidence in local courts, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in an opinion (PDF) published this morning.
A handwritten note discovered at the crime scene played a major role in the trial of Robert Pettus, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2008. On appeal, Pettus argued that a 2009 report by the National Research Council of the National Academies cast new and serious doubts on the reliability of the forensic sciences, including handwriting analysis.
Senior Judge Michael Farrell, writing for the three-judge panel, acknowledged that Pettus and the D.C. Public Defender Service, which argued the case as an amicus party, made “a spirited attack” on the acceptance of pattern-matching analysis.
However, the court found that the report failed to detail specific problems with handwriting analysis – as opposed to the forensic sciences as a whole – and that the methodology behind handwriting analysis is “well-established and accepted in the forensic science community generally.”
Pettus’ attorney, solo practitioner Thomas Heslep, said this morning that he was still reviewing the opinion, but expected that he would petition for a rehearing before the whole court. A representative for the Public Defender Service did not immediately return a request for comment, and U.S. attorney office spokesman William Miller declined to comment.
Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the gloves off in its defense against Paul Ceglia, a man that argues he owns half of the company over a 2003 contract.
The filing aims to expedite a discovery process that includes producing the original emails Zuckerberg allegedly signed, native digital copies of those documents and Ceglia’s computers. Facebook and Zuckerberg say in their filing that Ceglia is conducting fraud.
Related: Facebook: Ceglia claims ‘brazen and outrageous fraud’; Read the response Paul Ceglia vs. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: Here’s the complaint and it’s a good read
Zuckerberg also denied he signed any contract from Ceglia and sent emails. “The evidence Defendants have gathered to date corroborates Zuckerberg’s sworn statements and confirms that Ceglia’s documents are forgeries,” said Zuckerberg and Facebook in a filing.
Among the key excerpts:
HOW TO GET PAID FOR EXPERT SERVICES
When I started teaching and training individuals about how to become handwriting experts and document examiner experts I quickly realized that one could learn everything about analyzing, comparing, evaluating, peer reviewing, and testifying and still be a failure in the business of being an expert witness.
The most important issue after the education, training and experience is to get paid often and sufficiently enough to stay in business so you can help people who need you. Any expert who has been around long enough to have enjoyed some success has encountered the same old story over and over: “I will pay you later” or whatever the excuse may be. Remember, excuses satisfy only those who give them. Excuses do not pay our Google, Yellow Pages, postcard and advertising bills or feed our families.
I have even had clients ask me to front the plane fare and other expenses. Can you believe I did it — at least twice?? Wow. I sure have learned from my mistakes. You can now learn from mine two.
Often times the result of the case, whether a court case or a case of which employee gets fired for writing racial slurs on the bathroom wall, rests on our professional expert opinion testimony. It should be obvious to anyone with good common sense and adequate vision that experts can help win or lose a case. As a result of my expertise, I once helped a client get off death row. He has written me many letters of appreciation with much gratitude and I know he knows how important an expert can be to a cause or a case.
My attitude is strengthened every day about how valuable an asset an expert can be. In fact, I believe experts should get paid up front before their examination and always before any court testimony. This subject is a passion for my beautiful friend, Expert Rosalie Hamilton, who consults and coaches experts worldwide. In a recent letter from Expert Communication, Rosalie said “I feel that for experts, whose education and experience are significant enough to qualify them to assist the courts of our land in understanding the issues before them, to have to beg, cajole, renegotiate (bargain), institute collection procedures and even sue for their compensation is unseemly.”
You cannot survive in this business if you refuse to take a stand up front and demand payment before you begin your examination.
Early in my career, my staff and family watched me struggle for years with futile attempts to get paid after the job was complete. Accounts receivable. Now, we run our business by a specific set of policies which work well – like gravity – the same result every time.
Our new policy is that we do not examine a document unless we been paid for an examination, in full- up front. As a result of this new policywe now have little or no collection problem. The only exception to this policy is working with the State or City who have policies which pay 30-90 days. Of course, there are exceptions with less risk than normal but this course of action should only be followed after you acquire the experience and wisdom to discern good guys from the bad.
As an example, I just finished a case with one of the largest transportation companies in the state of Texas. The chief counsel called me and asked me to join him in a meeting with outside counsel (an attorney from one of the largest law firms in Dallas) concerning a forged document. The chief counsel discussed my fees during our initial phone call and then asked me to just bill him. After two meetings in their office, an examination of the questioned document and a notarized opinion letter, I simply billed them for my travel time, meeting time, mileage, and for the examination and subsequent opinion letter. My fee was paid within a week. Sometimes we do business on a handshake. But, it could back fire.
For me, the most important part about the collection process in this case was that I obtained an agreement up front that they would pay for my services. After that, they trusted me and I trusted them. We both were satisfied with the outcome and we completed our business feeling good about our professional relationship.
Remember, wise and experienced experts like Rosalie Hamilton agree, and I concur, Do Not provide an opinion, written or verbal, until you have been paid for your opinion. Let me give you one more example of how you must behave when forced with an emergency temptation to perform before you get paid: emulate my good friend from Oklahoma, Expert Brenda Petty, who never fails to follow her own policies. Brenda is one of the best experts in the South. Brenda met her client and attorney at the courthouse just in time for trail but Brenda had not been paid. Brenda’s client did not present Brenda with the payment before trial as agreed, so Brenda simply said, “I am out of here” and left the courthouse. Brenda’s client caught up with her just as she opened her car door, and paid her on the spot. Brenda testified – after she was paid.
Many experts require a client sign a contract before beginning work. I find this slows down the process and I have found no agreement or contract that fits every situation. Therefore, I seldom use a written agreement, but I do get a verbal agreement on price and method of payment before I issue a written report. We simply say, “We do not release the results of our examination until we receive payment. How would you like to pay?”
A written agreement is essential if you utilize a credit card to accept payment. Get a signature or the credit card company will always side with the card holder.
Remember, when people call or contact you they expect to pay and are aware that when they place an order, it is time to pay and/or make arrangements to do so. If you have trouble asking for payment for your services, please go to a McDonald’s and buy something. Watch how the high school kids ask for payment: no hesitation, no fear of rejection, no embarrassment, no debate, no offer to collect after you finish eating or drinking. It is a simple statement – “The amount of your order is $12.94. Is that cash or credit, please?”
Habits are the best of friends or the worst of enemies.
So establish your good habits up front and you will be a success.
Title Text in your website HTML
Website title text is arguably the most important on-page factor for search engine optimization.
It’s really important. Really. Very important. Awfully important. Tremendously important. It’s kind of a big deal. That might be why it’s called the title.
If you thought the recent George Clooney movie “Ides of March” made the political process seem a bit less than “ethical”… you should read about the reality of forged ballots in Indiana.
The signatures of dozens, if not hundreds, of northern Indiana residents were faked on petitions used to place presidential candidates on the state primary ballot in 2008, The Tribune and Howey Politics Indiana have revealed in an investigation.
Several pages from petitions used to qualify Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the state’s Democratic primary contain names and signatures that appear to have been copied by hand from a petition for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger. The petitions were filed with the Indiana Election Division after the St. Joseph County Voter Registration Office verified individuals’ information on the documents.