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Kaye addresses problems in evidence rules for U.S. Judicial Conference Rules Advisory Committee


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – David H. Kaye, Distinguished Professor of Law at Penn State Law, spoke at a symposium convened by the Judicial Conference of U.S. Courts’ Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules. The symposium was held at Boston College Law School on Oct. 27 to advise the committee on problems with judicial screening of forensic-science evidence.

In addition to Kaye, the invited speakers included the co-chair of President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the president of the American Statistical Association, representatives from the Justice Department and the FBI, federal district and circuit court judges, and five law professors. A transcript of the symposium and several articles based on the presentations will appear in the Fordham Law Review.

Kaye’s talk, which will be the basis for one these articles, was entitled “Why Has Rule 702 Failed Forensic Science?” Kaye described how ambiguities in the terminology adopted in the Supreme Court’s leading opinion on the admissibility of scientific evidence, combined with the opaqueness of forensic-science publications and standards, have shielded some test methods from critical judicial analysis. He also outlined various meanings of the terms “validity” and “reliability” in science and statistics and in the rules and opinions on the admissibility of expert evidence.

Kaye is an expert on scientific evidence and statistics in law. He holds degrees from MIT, Harvard, and Yale universities. An author of three treatises on the law of evidence and books on forensic science, statistics, and law, Kaye has served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and on expert working groups established by the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to improve the use of forensic science in the legal system.

The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules consists of judges, academics, and attorneys from across the U.S. The committee advises the Standing Committee on Rules and the Judicial Conference of U.S. Courts, which refers new rules to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Judicial Conference is the national policymaking body for the federal courts. It is led by the chief justice of the United States and comprises the chief judge of each judicial circuit, the chief judge of the Court of International Trade, and a district judge from each regional judicial circuit.

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