May 19, 2010

Will antigay expert witness's scandal cause legal fallout?

By now, I expect all of you know about the antigay "expert" caught flouncing around Europe with a cute little "rent boy." Most of the commentary I've seen has focused on George Rekers's audacity and hypocrisy. (My favorite of these is by English professor Christopher Lane, author of the book, Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, an expose on the inner workings of the American Psychiatric Association, writing over at his Side Effects blog.)

But today's New York Times has the story I've really been curious to see, about the potential legal ramifications. Rekers has been a high-profile expert witness for years, jetting around the country to testify about how gay people are mentally imbalanced and their children troubled. Florida paid him $120,000, for example, to testify in support of a state ban on gay adoptions; he also wrote an expert declaration in California's legal battle over same-sex marriage.

As John Schwartz reports:
[T]he scandal may affect more than Dr. Rekers’s reputation. They say it places obligations on those who have relied on Dr. Rekers to inform the court in at least one continuing case to modify or withdraw their arguments.

"Each lawyer must tell the court if he comes to know that one of his witnesses has given 'false' testimony," said Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics at New York University. That could come into play if the expert is discredited, he added….

The practical effect of the Rekers scandal on the legal movement to restrict gay rights is unclear. He is not the only expert espousing such views. Another Arkansas case concerning restrictions on gay adoption is under way, for example, and Dr. Rekers is not part of that case.

The universe of such experts, however, may not be large. In describing Dr. Rekers's selection in the Florida case, [Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican gubernatorial candidate] told reporters last week, "There were only two willing to step forward and testify, and we searched a long time."
The full story is HERE.

Photo credit: Brandon K. Thorp, Miami New Times


Matt McMullen said...

As unsympathetic as I am to this guy for testifying as he does, I don't think his personal life should undermine his testimony. What if, for example, an expert testified that some personality disorder was treatable, and then it turned out the expert had that personality disorder. Or what if it turned out that Samenow was an antisocial, or that a DUI expert was a drunk, or a child custody expert a crummy parent, etc.? I don't think their personal lives should disqualify the content of their testimony, or even be an issue at all.

Whether their testimony should be admissible under standards that require scientific reliability is another question, and doesn't require investigation of private lives.

Anonymous said...

He lied a lot. And how can one trust the statements of someone who was and is a liar? I spit on that sort op people.