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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hiring Experts in Land Use Cases

Retaining a specialist to testify in a land use case can make the difference between winning or losing a case.  Land use cases are often “expert heavy” cases, requiring the testimony of land planners, appraisers, traffic engineers, and noise and lighting consultants. Prior to hiring an expert, you should review as much as possible of the expert’s publications, presented papers, and other written materials and to explore the expert’s history as a testifying witness either in depositions or at trial. An expert who has published peer review profession journal articles, chapters in texts, or books will have a strong working knowledge of all published opinions and counter opinions on the area in question. An expert witness who has published in peer reviewed publications gets the benefit of the jury understands that her research and opinions have been deemed worthy to publish.

Equally important is the expert’s ability to communicate clearly, and the expert’s personality and demeanor. An expert’s appearance and general demeanor, age, personality, honesty, intelligence, and speaking ability should be weighed. In a jury trial, it is often the personality rather than the testimony of the expert that the jury remembers. If a jury has the impression that an expert is being patronizing, they may completely disregard his opinion. Similarly, the selection of an overly shy person as an expert should be avoided, as the jury may not credit his authority.  Do not discount the “personality factor,” particularly in a jury trial.


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