Judicial gatekeeping and the social construction of the admissibility of expert testimony


  • Parts of this research were presented at the 2005 Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, and the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, Baltimore, MD.

  • The authors would like to thank Elizabeth Gathercole, Robert Nunez, and Matt Wiegand for their excellent and careful work during the data collection stage of the project, and Victoria Springer for her helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


Content analysis of 192 U.S. District Court cases was conducted to investigate judges' evaluations of expert characteristics and evidence characteristics for toxicology, psychological/psychiatric, and damages testimony. Judges evaluated more expert characteristics, but not more evidence characteristics, as the number of months post-Daubert increased (Hypotheses 1 and 2). More evidence characteristics were evaluated when evidence was quantitatively rather than qualitatively based (Hypothesis 3). The greatest number of evidence characteristics examined was for toxicology evidence (Hypothesis 4). Fewer expert characteristics were evaluated for admissible evidence, but more evidence characteristics were evaluated for inadmissible evidence (Hypothesis 5). All analyses were significant at .05. Implications for judges, attorneys, and experts are discussed. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.