Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Historically, trial courts have been cautious about allowing juries to hear testimony from scientific experts. When a testifying expert professes to have knowledge in a specialized field, juries often find sorting out issues of credibility and relevance difficult and confusing.' Therefore, federal courts traditionally have attempted to exclude expert testimony if its basis has not yet gained a requisite degree of acceptance within a relevant community of experts. The justification for this limitation is that those people who are in the best position to understand and evaluate this evidence-other experts-should make judgments about the reliability of scientific evidence. This contingent admissibility provides both advantages and disadvantages. It immediately ensures that admitted testimony will be sensible, probable, and rooted in principles of science accepted by a majority of experts in a field; at the same time, it arguably excludes potentially useful cutting-edge theories merely because they have not yet been subjected to sufficient peer review.