Court of Appeals Courtroom in Pioneer Courthouse
While most of the theatrics in a case goes on between lawyers and the jury, much of the real drama takes place on paper between lawyers and judges. There they try and convince the court that certain people or things should be excluded from the trial and away from the ears of the jury. This extends to expert witnesses-who should qualify as one and what they should be allowed to say. Many states and federal courts follow the Daubert standard to determine these issues. Under this test, the court tries to establish if the basis for the supposed witness’ testimony has a scientific foundation and uses several factors in this analysis, including the following: the ability to test the theories proffered, extent of peer review, potential errors, existing standards, and acceptance in the relevant medical community.
On the other hand, Illinois and a few other states use the Frye standard to decide these crucial, threshold questions in court. This asks if the manner in which the evidence that the testimony purports to submit was obtained via a method that is generally accepted in the relevant field. Thus, the Frye standard is critical to a lot of Illinois litigation but related, tangential questions emerge from this regime as well. One topic that continues to trickle to the surface of the Illinois legal landscape is the quality and kind of expert testimony needed to commit a person to a mental health facility. A review of one case discussing a facet of that topic now follows.