Expert witnesses provide specific subject-matter insight that a case’s attorneys, parties, and jury may lack. This support is indispensable in many cases. But when it comes to contextualizing an expert’s publications, legal 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. A number of legal and academic venues are available online. 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. Certain free online databases make it easier to locate these works and, in some cases, to obtain full-text copies of them.
The MedlinePlus database offers access to abstracts and full-text articles across a vast range of medical and health-related disciplines. It is run by the U.S. National Library of Medicine—part of the National Institutes of Health.
WorldCat.org bills itself as “the world’s largest library catalog.” The site is connected to over 10,000 library databases and over 2 billion items worldwide. Its search functions resemble those of a public library. Users may search by title, author, subject, or by a wide range of media formats. It also offers an “Ask a Librarian” feature for additional assistance.
Though 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 virtual checkout of items.
Academia.edu has built a reputation as a social media site similar to LinkedIn but with a focus 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.
Academia does not list all experts as it is an opt-in platform. Additionally, 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. It can also be a useful way to see how experts in certain fields are connected through co-authorship or participation in conference panels. Academia may also reveal experts who work in the same departments, organizations, or other means.
Google Scholar narrows the reach of Google’s search algorithms to scholarly literature. This refinement allows 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/university websites. When available, Google Scholar provides links to full-text copies of works.
The search tool allows criteria by a year or date range and to include or exclude abstracts without full text. The search function can also include or exclude searchers for patents filed in an individual’s name. This tool is 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, by date, or by date range. The platform is not particularly useful for searching via case citation. Though, it is effective at spotting case names and the names of expert witnesses 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 as they choose an expert for a particular case. This platform provides access to case and docket information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Access to some information is free. Other items can cost $0.10 per page and up to a total cost of $3.00.
Recent improvements to the PACER Case Locator (PCL) include better functionality on mobile and the ability to save cases and frequent search terms. Mobile users may also customize the post-login landing page to their specific needs.
LexisNexis and Westlaw
In the legal field, no single clearinghouse for expert witness transcripts currently exists. But 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. Meanwhile, Westlaw offers written, video, and audio options.