TORTINI

For your delectation and delight, desultory dicta on the law of delicts.

Love that Hormesis to Pieces

October 12th, 2017

Hermann Joseph Muller was an American biologist who won the Nobel Prize in 1946, for Physiology or Medicine, for his work on fruit fly genetics. In his Nobel Prize speech, Muller opined that there was no threshold dose for radiation-induced mutagenesis. Muller’s speech became a locus of support for what later became known as the “linear no threshold” (LNT) theory of carcinogenesis.

Muller was an ardent eugenicist, although of the communist, not the Nazi, variety.1 After 1932, Muller’s political enthusiasms took him to the Soviet Union, where Muller blithely ignored murderous purges and famines, in order to pursue his scientific interests for the greater glory of the Proletarian Dicatorship.2 Muller became enamored of a People’s eugenics program. On May 5, 1936, Muller wrote to “Comrade Stalin,” “[a]s a scientist with confidence in the ultimate Bolshevik triumph throughout all possible spheres of human endeavor,” to offer the brutal dictator “a matter of vital importance arising out of my own science – biology, and, in particular, genetics.”3

Comrade Stalin was underwhelmed by Muller’s offer, and threw his lot in with Trofim Lysenko. A disheartened Muller managed to extricate himself from the Soviet fatherland, but not so much from its politics and ideology4. After returning to the United States, he remained active in noteworthy liberal and progressive political activities. Alas, he also seemed to remain a Communist fellow traveler, who found time to criticize only the Soviet embrace of Lysenkoism and its treatment of dissident geneticists (such as himself), with nary a mention of Ukrainian farmers, political dissidents, or the Soviet subjugation of eastern and central Europe.5

In retreating from his Soviet homeland, Muller did not abandon his eugenic vision for the United States. In 1966, Muller urged the immediate establishment of sperm banks for “outstanding men,” such as himself, to make deposits for use in artificial insemination6

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Back in a 1976, George E. P. Box outlined his notion that all models are wrong even though some may be useful7. The LNT model, as devised by Muller and embraced by regulatory agencies around the world, has long since lost its usefulness in describing and predicting biological phenomena. LNT is scientific in the sense that it is testable and falsifiable; LNT has been tested and falsified. Muller’s model ignores relevant biological processes of tolerance, defense, and adaptation8

The resilience of the LNT seems to be due to the advocacy of scientists and regulators who find the simplistic LNT model to be useful in ensuring regulation of, and compensation for, low-dose exposures. The perpetual machine litigation created with asbestos comes to mind. Other “political scientists” come to mind as well. Theory and data are often in tension, but at the end of any debate, scientists are obligated to “save the phenomena.” Fortunately, there are scientists who are challenging the dominance of the LNT model, and who are pointing out where the model just does not fit the data9.

In the United States, Muller’s theories were subjected to some real-world tests. In May 1947, Muller warned of the possible evolution of evil monsters born to Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the basis of his assessment that the atomic bombs had produced countless mutants. Later that year, however, Austin Brues, director of the Argonne National Laboraty, published his findings of children born to Hiroshima survivors, who had no more mutations than baseline expectation10.

Notwithstanding the shaky evidentiary foundations of Muller’s views, his prestige as a Nobel laureate encouraged the adoption and promotion of the LNT model by the National Academy of Sciences’ Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) I Genetics Panel. Edward J. Calabrese, a prominent toxicologist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, has taken pains, on multiple occasions, to trace the genealogy of this error. His most recent, and most succinct effort, is a worthwhile read for policy makers, judges, and lawyers who want to understand the historical dimension of the LNT model11. A fuller bibliography is set out as an appendix to this post.


 

1 Herman Joseph Muller, Out of the Night – a Biologist’s View of the Future (1935).

2 Elof Alex Carlson, Genes, Radiation, and Society: The Life and Work of H.J. Muller (1981).

3 John Glad, “Hermann J. Muller’s 1936 Letter to Stalin,” 43 The Mankind Quarterly 305 (2003).

4 See, e.g., Peter J. Kuznick, Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930’s America 121 (1987).

5 Hermann J. Muller, “The Crushing of Genetics in the USSR,” 4 Bull. Atomic Scientists 369 (1948). Some have attempted to protect Muller’s conduct by arguing that he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he was critical of Soviet restrictions on secondary education. See Thomas D. Clark, Indiana University: Midwestern Pioneer 310 (1977). Given Muller’s privileged position to observe first hand what had happened to Ukrainian farmers and others, this coming forward on Soviet education seems feeble indeed.

6 See Sperm Banks Urged by Nobel Laureate,” N.Y. Times (Sept. 13, 1966).

7 See George E. P. Box, “Science and Statistics,” 71 J. Am. Stat. Ass’ 791 (1976); George E. P. Box, “Robustness in the strategy of scientific model building,” in R. L. Launer & G.N. Wilkinson, Robustness in Statistics at 201–236 (1979); George E. P. Box & Norman Draper, Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces at 74 (1987) (“Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.”).

8 See, e.g., Adam D. Thomas, Gareth J. S. Jenkins, Bernd Kaina, Owen G. Bodger, Karl-Heinz Tomaszowski, Paul D. Lewis, Shareen H. Doak, and George E. Johnson, “Influence of DNA Repair on Nonlinear Dose-Responses for Mutation,” 132 Toxicol. Sci. 87 (2013).

9 See, e.g., Bill Sacks & Jeffry A. Siegel, “Preserving the Anti-Scientific Linear No-Threshold Myth: Authority, Agnosticism, Transparency, and the Standard of Care,” 15 Dose-Response: An Internat’l J. 1 (2017); Charles L. Sanders, Radiobiology and Radiation Hormesis: New Evidence and its Implications for Medicine and Society (2017).

10 William Widder, “Probe Effects of Atom Bomb: Study Betrays No Evidence of Mutations,” Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Indiana) at 22 (Mon, Nov. 24, 1947).

11 Edward J.Calabrese, “The Mistaken Birth and Adoption of the LNT: An Abridged Version,” 15 Dose-Response: An Internat’l J. (2017).


Appendix

Edward J.Calabrese & Linda A. Baldwin, “Chemical hormesis: its historical foundations as a biological hypothesis,” 19 Human & Experimental Toxicol. 2 (2000)

Edward J. Calabrese and Linda A. Baldwin, “Hormesis: U-shaped dose responses and their centrality in toxicology,” 22 Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 285 (2001)

Edward J.Calabrese, “Hormesis: a revolution in toxicology, risk assessment and medicine: Re-framing the dose–response relationship,” 5 Eur. Mol. Bio. Org. Reports S37 (2004)

Edward J. Calabrese & Robyn Blain, “The occurrence of hormetic dose responses in the toxicological literature, the hormesis database: an overview,” 202 Toxicol. & Applied Pharmacol. 289 (2005);

Edward J. Calabrese, “Pain and U-shaped dose responses: occurrence, mechanisms and clinical Implications,” 38 Crit. Rev. Toxicol. 579 (2008)

Edward J. Calabrese, “Neuroscience and hormesis: overview and general findings,” 38 Crit. Rev. Toxicol. 249 (2008)

Edward J. Calabrese, “Linear No Threshold (LNT) – The New Homeopathy,” 31 Envt’l Toxicol. & Chem. 2723 (2012)

Edward J. Calabrese, “Muller’s Nobel Prize Lecture: When Ideology Prevailed over Science,” 126 Toxicol. Sci. 1 (2012)

Edward J. Calabrese, “How the U.S. National Academy of Sciences misled the world community on cancer risk assessment: new findings challenge historical foundations of the linear dose response, 87 Arch. Toxicol. 2063 (2013)

Edward J. Calabrese, “On the origins of the linear no-threshold (LNT) dogma by means of untruths, artful dodges and blind faith,” 142 Envt’l Research 432 (2015)

Edward J. Calabrese, “An abuse of risk assessment: how regulatory agencies improperly adopted LNT for cancer risk assessment,” 89 Arch. Toxicol. 647 (2015)

Edward J. Calabrese, “LNTgate: How scientific misconduct by the U.S. NAS led to governments adopting LNT for cancer risk assessment,” 148 Envt’l Research 535 148 (2016)

Edward J. Calabrese, “The threshold vs LNT showdown: Dose rate findings exposed flaws in the LNT model part 1. The Russell-Muller debate,” 154 Envt’l Res. 435 (2017)

Edward J. Calabrese, “The threshold vs LNT showdown: Dose rate findings exposed flaws in the LNT model part 2. How a mistake led BEIR I to adopt LNT,” 154 Envt’l Res. 452 (2017)

David Rosner’s Document Repository

July 23rd, 2017

David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz are leftist labor and social historians in Columbia University and City University of New York, respectively. Both are frequently disclosed by plaintiffs’ counsel as expert witnesses on historical issues, and both often testify at asbestos and other personal injury trials1. Markowitz has been excluded in at least one reliability challenge2.

The two historians, who appear so often together on plaintiffs’ designations that they are sometime referred to as a unified persona, Rosnowitz, have create a website, “Project Toxicdocs,” supposedly in an alpha version3.

The Toxic Docs website does not identify Rosner and Markowitz by name as authors or sponsors, but the website’s content and goals bear their indelible stamp, as well as the concordance of their institutional affiliations of Columbia and CUNY. The website promises “[b]lazingly fast” searches and access to previously confidential, classified industry documents on “industrial poisons”:

This dataset and website contain millions of pages of previously secret documents about toxic substances. They include secret internal memoranda, emails, slides, board minutes, unpublished scientific studies, and expert witness reports — among other kinds of documents — that emerged in recent toxic tort litigation.

Over the next couple years, we’ll be constantly adding material from lawsuits involving lead, asbestos, silica, and PCBs, among other dangerous substances. Innovations in parallel and cloud computing have made conversion of these documents into machine-readable, searchable text a far faster process than would have been the case just a decade ago.”

Similar efforts have been put into place for documents collected in tobacco and other litigations4. David Egilman, another regular testifier for the Lawsuit Industry once maintained a website with a large library of documents he relied upon for his ethics and state-of-the-art opinion testimony in various litigations.

A trial run through the “dataset” for the search term “silicosis” turned up 44 documents, most of which had nothing to do with silica or silicosis, and many of which were duplicates. Remarkably, there were no documents from government or labor unions.

We are sure that these historian expert witnesses will improve their efforts to be comprehensive and balanced, with practice.


1 See, e.g., Garcia v. Lone Star Indus., Case No. D-149, 527, 1997 WL 34904089 (Dist. Ct. Tex., Jefferson Cty., 1997) (identifying Rosner and Markowitz as testifying expert witnesses for plaintiff); City of Milwaukee v NL Industries, Inc., Circuit Ct., Milwaukee Cty., Wisc., 2007 WL 4676349 (Jan. 16, 2007) (referencing litigation report of Rosner and Markowitz); Gibson v. American Cyanamid Co., 719 F. Supp. 2d 1031, 1048 (E.D. Wis. 2010) (noting Rosner and Markowitz’s declaration for plaintiffs); Rhode Island v. Lead Industries Ass’n, C.A. No. PC 99-5226, Rhode Island Superior Court, Providence (Feb. 26, 2007) (discussing Rosner and Markowitz’s testimony on post-verdict motions); Altria Group, Inc. v. Good, No. 07-562, U.S. Sup. Ct., Amicus Brief of Allan M. Brandt, Robert N. Proctor, David M. Burns, Jonathan M. Samet, and David Rosner (June 18, 2008) (all amici except Rosner disclosed their litigation activities); Burton v. American Cyanamid Co., 775 F. Supp. 2d 1093 (E.D. Wis. 2011) (noting Rosner and Markowitz’s testimony in lead pigment case); California v. Atlantic Richfield Co., Santa Clara Super. Ct., Calif., No. 1-00-CV-788657, 2013 WL 4425657 (July 15, 2013) (noting Rosner’s testimony); Ostenrieder v. Rohm & Haas Co., Phila. Ct. C.P. Case No. 150602485, Motion in Limine to Exclude Testimony of Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner (filed by Rohm & Haas Co., subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co., June 18, 2015); Dumas v. ABB Group, Inc., civ. action no. 13-229-SLR-SRF (D. Del. Sept. 30, 2015) (referencing Rosner’s report for plaintiffs); Assenzio v. A.O. Smith Water Prods. Co., docket nos. 190008/12, 190026/12, 190200/12, 190183/12, 190184/12, NY Sup. Ct., NY Cty. (Feb. 5, 2015) (noting that Rosner testified for plaintiffs); Noll v American Biltrite, Inc., 188 Wash. App. 572, 355 P.3d 279 (Wash. Ct. App. June 29, 2015), aff’d, 355 P.3d 279 (Wash. 2015) (deposition of Gerald Markowitz given on behalf of plaintiff); Schwartz v. Honeywell Internat’l, Inc., 66 N.E.3d 118 (Ohio Ct. App. 2016) (same), app. granted, 148 Ohio St. 3d 1442, 72 N.E.3d 656 (2017); Clair v. Monsanto Co., 412 S.W.3d 295 (Mo. App. 2013) (noting Rosner as plaintiff’s expert witness); New v. Borg-Warner Corp., No. 13-cv-00675, 2015 WL 5166946 (W.D. Mo., Sept. 3, 2015) (identifying Rosner and Markowitz as plaintiff’s expert witnesses); Begin v. Air & Liquid Corp., Case No. 3:15-cv-830-SMY-DGW (S.D. Ill. May 10, 2016) (striking designation of plaintiff’s expert witness David Rosner as untimely in asbestos case); Rost v. Ford Motor Co., 151 A.3d 1032 (Pa. 2016) (noting Rosner and Markowitz as amici authors; no disclosure of litigation income); Dominick v. A.O. Smith Water Products, CA2014-000232, NY Sup. Ct., Oneida Cty., Notes of Testimony of David Rosner, Mar. 18, 2017 (Press Release from Plaintiffs’ law firm).

2 Quester v. B.F. Goodrich Co., Cuyahoga Cty., Ohio, C.P. Case No. 30-509539 (Jan. 12, 2008) (excluding Markowitz’s testimony as impermissible attempt to introduce expert witness opinion on defendants’ intent and motive).

3 Presumably an alpha version is one that has not made it to beta.

Succès de scandale – With Thanks to Rosner & Markowitz

March 26th, 2017

for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

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Some years ago, I co-chaired a Mealey’s conference on silicosis litigation. When plaintiffs’ counsel participate in such events, they are usually trolling for business, and jockeying for position on litigation steering committees. Ethical defense counsel are looking to put themselves out of business. My goal at the conference was to show that there was no there, there, so don’t go there. Mostly, the history of the litigation has proven me correct. In the early years of the 21st century, there were well over 10,000 cases pending. Now, there are just a hand full of pending cases. Very little money has been given to plaintiffs’ counsel; almost no sand companies have gone bankrupt.

At that Mealey’s conference, I presented a paper, which I later allowed Mealey’s to publish in its Silica Reporter. The paper became something of a “succès de scandale,” at least in getting under the skin of the Marxist historians, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, whom I took to task. In at least four of their publications, they have attempted unsuccessfully to rebut my arguments, and to criticize me for making them.1 At a meeting of the Committee on Science, Technology and the Law, of the National Academies of Science, I found myself presenting alongside Markowitz, on access to underlying study data. Markowitz played the victim of legal counsel’s subpoenas to his publisher for peer review comments in vinyl chloride, which grew out of his participation in the vinyl chloride litigation as an expert witness.2

I was on the panel for having served a subpoena upon Dr. Brad Racette for the underlying data of a study of parkinsonism in welders, with support in the form of the financial largesse of felon Richard Scruggs. Rosner was at this meeting only as a spectator, but he did not miss the opportunity, at a break, to get in my face, with the obvious intent of bullying me, with warnings that I would regret having ever written about them.

Back in 2007, the lawsuit-industry funded SKAPP conducted a conference, at which Rosner presented. I was not present, but a friend wrote me later, “Boy, does Rosner not like you. You steal a puppy from him or something?” When I presented at the Fourth International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Health, in 2010, Rosner repeated his Middlebury behavior. As soon as I finished my talk, he rushed for the microphone and filibustered the entire question and answer period.3 I would chalk this up to fascisti of the left, except the very nice socialist historian who chaired my panel apologized profusely afterwards.

In a revised edition of one of their historical potboilers, Rosner and Markowitz repeated their calumny:

It was not just the lead and chemical industries that saw our book and the evidence we presented as a threat. Nathan Schachtman, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based firm McCarter & English, and who defended companies sued for ‘exposures to allegedly toxic substances, including asbestos, benzene, cobalt isocyanates, silica and solvents’, also published an attack on us in Mealey’s Litigation Report: Silica, titled, ‘On Deadly Dust and Histrionic Historians’. In his attack on our earlier book, Deadly Dust, a history of the devastating lung disease silicosis, he accused us of writing a ‘jeremiad’ that ‘resonates to the passions and prejudices of the last century’. He took us to task for our ‘prejudice’ that ‘silicosis results from the valuation of profits over people’ and admonished us to point out the higher rates of silicosis in Communist countries. ‘They [the authors] fairly consistently excuse or justify the actions of labor… . They excoriate the motives and actions of industry’. But Schachtman’s true agenda emerged in the middle of his third paragraph. ‘We could safely leave the fate of Rosner’s and Markowitz’s historical scholarship to their community of academicians and historians if not for one discomforting fact,’ he wrote. ‘The views of Rosner and Markowitz have become part of the passion play that we call silicosis litigation.’16

Schachtman seemed to be saying that as long as academics speak only to one another and had no influence beyond academia, they can be tolerated. But once they begin to affect that wider world, they need to be put back in their place. All this despite the fact that, at the time of Schachtman’s piece, more than a decade after the publication of Deadly Dust in 1991, each of us had appeared on the stand in only one case.”4

Rosner and Markowitz get virtually everything wrong, but one factoid may have been true. As of 1991, Rosner and Markowitz had perhaps only “appeared on the stand in only one case,” but by the time I wrote the article in 2005, the Marxist duo had been listed as expert witnesses in hundreds, if not thousands, of cases. The language quoted above appeared in an “Epilogue” to a 2013 publication, by which time Rosner and Markowitz each had testified over a dozen times, as professional historian “arguers.” Only Markowitz testified in vinyl chloride cases, from what I can make out, but the two of them testified in many silica, asbestos, and lead cases by the time they published their Epilogue.

One obvious point is that Rosner and Markowitz are both rather disingenuous in portraying themselves as innocent academics without connections to the lawsuit industry. In their world, they seek victim status to hide their long-standing partisanship in litigation issues. The real point, however, is that Rosner and Markowitz have never rebutted my arguments that silicosis was worse for workers in East Germany, the Soviet Union, Maoist China, under communist rule than it was in the post-1935 era in the United States. Unlike the rising incidence of asbestosis, the incidence of silicosis in the United States has steadily and significantly declined after World War II. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control has held up the control of silicosis as one of the ten great public achievements in 20th century United States.5 SeeRamazzini Serves Courtroom Silica Science Al Dente” (July 25, 2015) (showing CDC data on declining silicosis incidence in the United States, against the rising trend in asbestosis incidence).


1 To date I have found four articles that dwell on the issue. See D. Rosner & G. Markowitz, “The Trials and Tribulations of Two Historians:  Adjudicating Responsibility for Pollution and Personal Harm, 53 Medical History 271, 280-81 (2009); D. Rosner & G. Markowitz, “L’histoire au prétoire.  Deux historiens dans les procès des maladies professionnelles et environnementales,” 56 Revue D’Histoire Moderne & Contemporaine 227, 238-39 (2009); David Rosner, “Trials and Tribulations:  What Happens When Historians Enter the Courtroom,” 72 Law & Contemporary Problems 137, 152 (2009); David Rosner & Gerald Markowitz, “The Historians of Industry” Academe (Nov. 2010).

2 Markowitz was excluded in at least one case in which he was disclosed as a testifying expert witness. Quester v. B.F. Goodrich Co., Case No. 03-509539, Court of Common Pleas for Cuyahoga Cty., Ohio, Order Sur Motion to Exclude Dr. Gerald Markowitz (Sweeney, J.).

3 Nathan Schachtman & John Ulizio, “Courting Clio:  Historians and Their Testimony in Products Liability Action,” in: Brian Dolan & Paul Blanc, eds., At Work in the World: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Health, Perspectives in Medical Humanities, University of California Medical Humanities Consortium, University of California Press (2012); Schachtman, “On Deadly Dust & Histrionic Historians 041904,”; How Testifying Historians Are Like Lawn-Mowing Dogs” (May 15, 2010); A Walk on the Wild Side (July 16, 2010); Counter Narratives for Hire (Dec. 13, 2010); Historians Noir (Nov. 18, 2014).

4 Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution at 313-14 (U. Calif. rev. ed. 2013). Footnote 16 was a reference to Nathan A. Schachtman, “On Deadly Dust and Histrionic Historians: Preliminary Thoughts on History and Historians as Expert Witnesses,” 2 Mealey’s Silica Litigation Report Silica 1, 2 (November 2003). Their language quoted above was largely self-plagiarized from Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, “The Historians of Industry” (Nov. – Dec. 2010). 

5 CDC, “Ten Great Public Health Achievements — United States, 1900-1999,” 48 Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 241 (April 02, 1999).

Art Historian Expert Testimony

August 15th, 2016

Art appraisal and authentication is sometimes held out as a non-technical and non-scientific area of expertise, and as such, not subject to rigorous testing.[1] But to what extent is this simply excuse mongering for an immature field of study? The law has seen way too much of this sort of rationalization in criminal forensic studies.[2] If an entire field of learning suffers from unreliability because of its reliance upon subjective methodologies, lack of rigor, inability or unwillingness to use measurements, failure to eliminate biases through blinding, and the like, then do expert witnesses in this field receive a “pass” under Rule 702, simply because they are doing reasonably well compared with their professional colleagues?

In the movie Who the Fuck is Jackson Pollack, the late Thomas Hoving was interviewed about the authenticity of a painting claimed to have been “painted” by Jackson Pollack. Hoving “authoritatively,” and with his typical flamboyance, averred that the disputed painting was not a Pollack because the work “did not sing to me like a Pollack.” Hoving did not, however, attempt to record the notes he heard; nor did Hoving speak to what key Pollack usually painted in.

In a recent case of defamation and tortious interference with prospective business benefit, a plaintiff sued over the disparagement of a painting’s authenticity and provenance. As a result of the defendants’ statements that the painting at issue was not created by Peter M. Doig, auction houses refused to sell the painting held by plaintiff. In litigation, the plaintiff proffered an expert witness who opined that the painting was, in fact, created by Doig. The defendants challenged plaintiff’s expert witness as not reliable or relevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Fletcher v. Doig, 13 C 3270, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95081 (N.D. Ill. July 21, 2016).

Peter Bartlow, the plaintiff’s expert witness on authenticity, was short on academic credentials. He had gone to college, and finished only one year of graduate study in art history. Bartlow did, however, have 40 years in experience in appraisal and authentication. Fletcher, at *3-4. Beyond qualifications, the defendants complained that Bartlow’s method was

(1) invented for the case,

(2) was too “generic” to establish authenticity, and

(3) failed to show that any claimed generic feature was unique to the work of the artist in question, Peter M. Doig.

The trial court rebuffed this challenge by noting that Peter Bartlow did not have to be an expert specifically in Doig’s work. Fletcher at *7. Similarly, the trial court rejected the defendants’ suggestion that the disputed work must exhibit “unique” features of Doig’s ouevre. Bartlow had made a legally sufficient case for his opinions based upon a qualitative analysis of 45 acknowledged works, using specific qualitative features of 11 known works. Id. At *10. Specifically, Bartlow compared types of paint, similarities in styles, shapes and positioning, and “repeated lineatures” by superimposing lines from known paintings to the questioned ones. Id. With respect to the last of these approaches, the trial court found that Bartlow’s explanation that the approach of superimposing lines to show similarity was simply a refinement of methods commonly used by art appraisers.

By comparison with Thomas Hoving’s subjective auditory methodology, as explained in Who the Fuck, Bartlow’s approach was positively brilliant, even if the challenged methodologies left much to be desired. For instance, Bartlow compared one disputed painting with 45 or so paintings of accepted provenance. No one tested Bartlow’s ability, blinded to provenance, to identify true and false positives of Doig paintings. SeeThe Eleventh Circuit Confuses Adversarial and Methodological Bias, Manifestly Erroneously” (June 6, 2015); see generally Christopher Robertson & Aaron Kesselheim, Blinding as a Solution to Bias: Strengthening Biomedical Science, Forensic Science, and Law (2016).

Interestingly, the Rule 702 challenges in Fletcher were in a case slated to be tried by the bench. The trial court thus toasted the chestnut that trial courts have even greater latitude in admitting expert witness opinion testimony in bench trials, in which “the usual concerns of [Rule 702] – keeping unreliable testimony from the jury – are not present.” Fletcher at *3 (citing Metavante Corp. v. Emigrants Savings Bank, 619 F.3d 648, 670 (7th Cir. 2010)). Citing Seventh Circuit precedent, the trial court, in Fletcher, asserted that the need to rule on admissibility before trial was lessened in a bench trial. Id. (citing In re Salem, 465 F.3d 767, 777 (7th Cir. 2006)). The courts that have taken this position have generally failed to explain why the standard for granting or denying a Rule 702 challenge should be different in a bench trial. Clearly, a bench trial can be just as much a waste of time, money, and energy as a jury trial. Even more clearly, judges can be, and are, snookered by misleading expert witness opinions, and they are also susceptible to their own cognitive biases and the false allure of unreliable opinion testimony, built upon invalid inferences. Men and women do not necessarily see more clearly when wearing black robes, but they can achieve some measure of objectivity by explaining and justifying their gatekeeping opinions in writing, subject to public review, comment, and criticism.


[1] See, e.g. Lees v. Carthage College, 714 F.3d 516, 525 (7th Cir. 2013) (holding that an expert witness’s testimony on premises security involved non-scientific expertise and knowledge that did “not easily admit of rigorous testing and replication”).

[2] See, e.g., National Academies of Science, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2009).