Becoming an Expert Witness

By Geri Elias, National Outreach Manager

Advocates and professionals working in domestic violence direct service programs can be excellent resources for attorneys in need of expert witnesses.  Sara Buel, JD, a clinical professor at the University of Texas, and Toby Myers, Ed.D, National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, teamed up in the National Alliance to End Domestic Abuse’s May teleconference, to train members and participants on “How Expert Witnesses in Domestic Violence Cases Can Assist Survivors.”

Survivors of abuse, Professor Buel, and Dr. Myers gave compelling presentations on how attorneys can use expert witnesses; what an expert can be expected to do; and how an expert can withstand cross-examination. Generally Buel and Myers collaborate to train expert witnesses in two-day conferences at the University of Texas School of Law and the University of Texas School of Social Work in Austin.

One of the hurdles in domestic violence cases is overcoming the myths and misconceptions about domestic abuse.  Responding to concerns raised by lawyers, judges, advocates, and victims, trained experts can educate court personnel about the experiences that survivors have had.  According to Buel and Myers, “Anyone who has experience, not necessarily academic credentials, can be qualified and trained to become an expert witness.”  By training domestic violence program staff, who are experts in their areas, attorneys representing abuse victims can now access an effective and affordable tool when building their cases. As is the case for any expert witness, direct service providers are paid a fee for their services – which can bring additional revenues to domestic abuse programs.

You can bring these and other experts to your community through the National Training Institute. To find out about future National Alliance to End Domestic Abuse teleconferences, sign up to receive updates. You may now join the National Alliance and participate in 11 teleconferences from June, 2009 through June, 2010. The cost is $99.00 for individuals and $149.00 for organizations.

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