In reaching its recent decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the United States Supreme Court grappled not with case law but with fundamental questions about the nature of science and its role in law. The court in Daubert addressed the problematic issue of admissibility of expert scientific testimony. In the end the Court rejected as an exclusionary rule the venerable standard set in 1923 by Frye v. United States. Frye held that scientific testimony was to be excluded unless it had gained “general acceptance” in its field. Daubert held that Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence displaced the Frye rule. It remains to be seen how admissibility of scientific testimony will play out in the federal courts now that Daubert has altered the Frye rule. Daubert sent shock waves of uncertainty through the litigation bar. “The catch,” warned Supreme Court watcher David O. Stewart, “is that no one is exactly sure what the new standard is.” Admissibility of scientific testimony can be a critical factor in a broad range of litigation, and Daubert 's uncertain prognosis cuts a wide swath. Science holds understandable allure for a party caught up in dispute within the American trial system. A trial is a battle over what constitutes historical truth. A party tries to convince the factfinder that her version of what happened is what happened. To the extent that scientific evidence presents convincing corroboration of one party's version of truth, it can decide the case. Little wonder that scientific evidence is offered eagerly by litigators who manage to find a source of data and analysis favorable to their client's version of the truth. Practitioners who would oppose the introduction of scientific testimony by an adversary at trial, however, no longer can rely on the simplistic, if unpredictable, “general acceptance” exclusionary standard of Frye . Now they must contend with Daubert. Persuasive admissibility and exclusion arguments will turn not on what Daubert says but on what Daubert means. This Comment explores two sources of insight that may help practitioners come to terms with what Daubert means. First, it evaluates the role of reliability and relevance in admissibility of scientific testimony. Then it examines instructive Maine state decisions handed down since 1978 without Frye as an exclusionary rule.
Leigh S. McCarthy,
Life After Daubert v. Merrell Dow: Maine as a Case Law Laboratory for Evidence Rule 702 Without Frye,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol46/iss2/6