Jurisprudence Section Happenings – January 2016

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.


Sources:  Christine Funk, JD, Section Chair and Stephanie Domitrovich, JD, PhD, Section Secretary

We look forward to the wonderful presentations of our members and others at the AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting in Las Vegas in February. Please do not forget to buy your luncheon ticket ASAP online AND ahead of time. Do not wait until you arrive at the annual meeting. It is unlikely you will be able to find any available tickets that close to this wonderful event. The only way to ensure you will be able to attend is to purchase a ticket in advance. Our Section Chair, Christine Funk, is currently firming up details with our speaker and we will be announcing the name of the speaker soon.

We are very proud to report the following news announcing the outstanding activities of our members. We thank our members for sharing these newsworthy events submitted to us.

First of all, we congratulate Judge Joseph Maltese for his appointment as Presiding Justice of the New York Litigation Coordinating Panel (LCP), which handles the coordination of complex litigation (such as mass torts) pending in more than one county of the state of New York. The LCP is the New York State version of the Federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL) Panel, which handles mass torts and other complex litigation pending in several states.

Attorney Ted Vosk, as a consultant for the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, worked to make significant changes through a project addressing the reporting of the results of fingerprint analysis performed in their lab. As of November 3, 2015, the United States Army will no longer use the terminology “identification” or “individualization” when reporting the results of fingerprint analysis as these have been understood to convey results with a greater-than-warranted degree of certainty. Rather, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory will begin explicitly incorporating the existence of uncertainty in its reporting of results by couching all conclusions in probabilistic language indicating whether or not certain results are believed to be likely. This major step forward presents a more realistic picture of qualitative information. The Army is the first United States laboratory to make clear in its reporting of fingerprint analysis results that those results are subject to probabilities, rather than characterizing them as certain. The Army is now dedicated to the development of methods for determining the actual numerical uncertainties and will report those values with the results of all fingerprint analysis once those methods have been validated. Henry Swofford, Chief of the Latent Print Branch, is spearheading this effort for the Army.

Judge Rod Kennedy indicates that in line with “feeding the need for lawyers to know more about and prepare better for the use of scientific evidence in the courtroom,” we just finished my 6th annual award-winning continuing legal education program for the State Bar of New Mexico, “Part VI: More Reasons to Be Skeptical of Scientific Evidence.” The purpose of this program was “to get lawyers to a point to be able to ask enough questions of practitioners in various scientific disciplines to make a difference in their examination of witnesses of whom they are both the proponent and opponent in court.” This year’s speakers included Dan Simon (Professor of Law & Psychology/USC, author of In Doubt), Andrew Baker (NAME President, Hennepin Co., MN, ME) and Dan Martell (Psychologist, AAFS Past President). This program is webcast and also the most requested Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program for re-broadcast and video re- presentation of the New Mexico Bar’s CLE programs. Previous speakers have included Michael Saks, John Lentini, Carol Henderson, David Harris, Ted Vosk, Michael Risinger, Carla Noziglia, Christine Funk, David Faigman, Tom Bohan, and Fred Chris Smith.

In November, Attorney Carol Henderson, AAFS Past President and section Fellow, spoke at the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS), Northern Territory, Australia Branch, and met with Chief Justice Trevor Riley, NT Supreme Court. Carol also spoke at the University of Technology, Sydney. Carol Henderson also informs us that The National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law (NCSTL) and the Law Enforcement Innovation Center released its online CLE course “Locating, Evaluating and Selecting Expert Witnesses;” to register, go to http://leic.tennessee.edu/expertwitness. NCSTL just received a $400,000 Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) grant to develop forensic science education for capital litigators. The training will be delivered in eight webinars and two in-person training conferences over two years. For more information, please visit http://ncstl.org.

We look forward to seeing you all at our annual Jurisprudence Section luncheon. When you have any news about any of our members, please submit your information to both officers at christinefunk@christinefunk.net and sdomitro54@gmail.com.