TX: Underlying litigation
Facts: The client brought this action against former attorney and designated a former Texas Supreme Court Justice as an expert witness concerning legal malpractice issues in this case. Former Justice issued an expert report stating that the firm and their employee lawyer was negligent and guilty of malpractice in their conduct. The Justice opined that if an opposing lawyer asks the court to take judicial notice of the court’s file, the other lawyer’s duty is to either know exactly what is in file or call for a recess to determine what’s in there before he can agree that the judge take judicial notice of it. The attorney filed a motion to exclude this expert testimony.
Issue: Can client qualify a former Justice as an expert witness offering testimony on legal malpractice under the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Ruling: No. In evaluating whether expert testimony may be admitted the key factors are reliability and relevance. The client did not produce sufficient evidence to qualify witness as an expert because of the failure to produce evidence hat Justice has sufficient specialized knowledge to assist the trier of fact in deciding the malpractice issues in this case. The client only provided evidence that when the Justice has conducted expert work it was primarily in legal malpractice cases. The particular issues the Justice addressed in such cases is unknown. A person who may be licensed attorney or Judge, who holds years of experience in the practice of law will not qualify him/her to give an expert opinion on every legal question. The client and expert did not demonstrate the facts or data relied upon in reaching opinion and therefore not the product of reliable principles and methods.
Lesson: Lifetime experience as a lawyer or Judge does not qualify one as an expert in all areas of law-specialized knowledge in particular area is necessary.