So to try and put my question into context, I'm thinking about writing a fan-fiction spin-off to a TV series that is in part a legal drama, but I also want it to have a scientific investigative element as well.

So I know that "expert witnesses" in many fields can be hired/contracted by firms to testify in court, but I was wondering if there were any companies or organizations that have a collective of expert witnesses in various fields that can be hired out to these firms or the Government (prosecution)?? If so, do these organizations have a name? Is there specific terminology for this? Are any of them "forensic" in general??? Could someone perhaps give me a real life example?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a google search – BlueDogRanch Dec 10 '19 at 16:40
  • It's giving me adds to hire in my area and advice on hiring, not if there is some terminology for a collective of them. It's talking about them on an individual basis. – Darth Locke Dec 10 '19 at 16:40
  • I'm looking for terminology, but I totally understand if it's off topic. I decided to go here before word building SE because it was about "legal" terminology and/or legal process of contracting expert witnesses. I thought someone in field could help me. – Darth Locke Dec 10 '19 at 16:41

Typically the Government doesn't hire outside expert witnesses for their purposes unless the specialty is atypically nuanced. As a prosecution expert witnesses are part of the jurisidiction's crime lab and they specifically handled the evidence in question. The generic term will depend based on the jurisdictions of the handling, but are usually departments of the policing authorities working the case, though in the United States, a more expert witness will usually come from a federal agency (usually the FBI, but depending on the case, other agencies may be better suited).

The defense or plaintiff (if either isn't the government) typically have access to private forensics labs that can examine the evidence for a fee (In the U.S., the defense always has a right to examine all evidence found in an investigation as well as all government results) and the expert who handled the evidence might be on retainer by the law firm, if they aren't big enough to have their own labs. Typically they will offer expert witnesses for a fee, usually billed to the law firm who is reimbursed by the client who's case needed it (typically, a lawyer and client will set up a trust fund that will hold a sum of money for the attorneys fees for immediate use, and may have it returned at case conclusion if there's still something in there or reimbursed in a victory (typically the victorious side is granted legal fees from the losing side in addition to compensatory and punitive damages... unless the victorious side is the government).

There is no term for these businesses as an expert witness is a witness who is qualified to give an opinion on a matter of a limited field of knowledge. So you may need a DNA foresnics specialist to test the DNA and testify to the findings, but if your case involves it as a matter of evidence, you may need to find something as odd as an expert on Beanie Babies to verify that the stolen plush is a rare defective character and worth a lot of money to collectors. They need not be certified by any official documented education or training, though it doesn't hurt. The process for qualifing an expert witness is called Voir Dire, which basically is a brief period where the side calling the witness can present the qualifications and the opposing council can object on any problems with the witness giving expert testimony. If they have no objections or all their objections are satisfied by the presenting council, the witness is allowed to give testimony.

For a good example of voir diring the witness, check out the film "My Cousin Vinny" which includes a scene where the titular Lawyer has to voir dire an out of work hairdresser as an expert witness in general automotive maintenance (It makes sense in context. Its used in legal schools as one of the best films about trial procedures ever made, and this scene is the crown jewel as to why.).

  • I'm a big fan of the Kings work and on The Good Wife/Fight they have individual expert witnesses all the time and in one episode of their latest series, Evil, a forensic psychologist is hired by the AUSA of Queens district, as she individually contracts herself out. But I just didn't know if there are agencies that pool or contract out several expert witnesses (or investigators for that matter) that a firm may regularly call upon more routinely, then having to constantly find individuals. So I gather from your answer, there isn't such a thing? – Darth Locke Dec 10 '19 at 16:56
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    Typically it's the lawyer's job to cultivate this list or find an expert witness for the oddball needs that don't fit. There are private companies that may be hired for specifics like DNA or crime reconstruction... but they will focus on specialties not a matchmaking service. It's not uncommon for frequent flier relations between a lawyer and a particluar expert to form, such that they have a friendlier relationship. If you watch Making a Murder, there are numerous times where the defense attorneys are talking with experts and clearly know them well. – hszmv Dec 10 '19 at 17:06
  • Ya, it's the same in The Good Wife. Thanks that is very helpful. :) – Darth Locke Dec 10 '19 at 17:11

I would call it an expert witness bureau. They don’t employ them but have a stable of people they can provide. Analogous got a speakers bureau.

  • Thank you. That is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. :) – Darth Locke Dec 10 '19 at 17:01

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