One major purpose of an expert witness is to provide the specific subject-matter expertise that the attorneys, parties, and jury in a case lack. While this support is indispensable in many cases, when it comes to contextualizing an expert’s publications, lawyers and their teams may find it challenging to locate and dissect research on topics outside their wheelhouse.
Fortunately, the digital era has made it easier than ever to obtain and review copies of an expert’s past publications through a number of legal and academic venues. Here, we look at some of the most commonly-used resources and methods for accessing them.
Publications and Authored Materials
An expert witness’s published works, including articles and books, are typically listed in the expert’s CV. A number of free online databases make it easier to locate these works and, in some cases, to obtain full-text copies of them.
The MedlinePlus database, run by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health), offers access to abstracts and full-text articles across a vast range of medical and health-related disciplines.
WorldCat.org bills itself as “the world’s largest library catalog,” and it is connected to over 10,000 library databases and over 2 billion items worldwide. Its search functions resemble those of a public library, with the option to search by title, author, subject, or by a wide range of media formats. It also offers an “Ask a Librarian” feature for additional assistance.
While WorldCat does not always return full-text results, it can alert users of nearby libraries that carry the full-text version. For users with membership in a library that allows remote checkout, WorldCat can facilitate the checkout of items directly over the computer.
Academia.edu has built a reputation as a social media site similar to LinkedIn, but focused solely on academics. The site promotes itself as “the easiest way to share papers with millions of people across the world for free.” As of late 2018, Academia had just under 70 million academics among its users.
Since Academia is opt-in, not all experts are listed on the site, and even those who have created a profile may never have uploaded any of their own papers. Nonetheless, it can be a valuable way to search for texts and to see how experts in certain fields are connected to one another through co-authorship, participation on conference panels, work in the same departments or organizations, or other means.
Google Scholar narrows the reach of Google’s search algorithms to scholarly literature, allowing users to skip popular blogs and news items in favor of published research. The database covers a vast range of articles, theses, books and abstracts from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, and college and university websites. When available, Google Scholar provides links to full-text copies of works.
The search tool allows searches to be limited by year or date range, to include or exclude abstracts without full text, and to include or exclude searchers for patents filed in an individual’s name – a valuable time-saver for legal teams that need an expert’s papers and patents together.
Google Scholar also has an option for searching case law. This option allows users to narrow their search by court and by date or date range. While it is not particularly useful for searching via case citation, it is effective at spotting case names and the names of expert witnesses who are mentioned in a court’s opinion.
Participation in Past Court Cases
In addition to Google Scholar, several tools make it easier to find experts’ testimony and submissions in past court cases.
PACER, or Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an indispensable tool for attorneys faced with the question of which expert witness to choose for a particular case. PACER provides access to case and docket information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Access to some information is free, while other items can cost $0.10 per page, up to a total cost of $3.00.
Recent improvements to the PACER Case Locator (PCL) include better functionality on mobile, the ability to save cases and frequent search terms, and customize the post-login landing page to your specific needs.
LexisNexis and Westlaw
While no single clearinghouse for expert witness transcripts currently exist, both Lexis and Westlaw are working to create useable databases. Lexis Advance’s Expert Witness Trial & Depositions Transcripts and Westlaw’s Transcripts-All database allow users to search by name, case name, date, and other fields in order to find previous expert witness transcripts. Lexis offers complete transcripts in PDF format and summaries in searchable text format, while Westlaw offers written, video, and audio options.