II. Objectivity and Professional Competency

A. Consultants undertaking forensic linguistic analyses will state in their reports the methods they have followed and provide relevant details of the data, equipment, statistical-reliability tests, and computer programs used

B. In making their analyses, consultants will take due account of—and act diligently in accordance with—the technical and professional methods available at the time and their appropriateness to the purposes of the inquiry and the data under examination.

C. In reporting in cases where judgments concerning the consultant’s level of certainty of an opinion or conclusion is scientifically possible, consultants will indicate where their opinion or conclusion lies in relation to the range of judgments, if any.

D. Consultants will maintain awareness of the limits of forensic linguistic analysis and of their own knowledge and competencies when agreeing to carry out work, making certain that they possess or can with certainty acquire the specific professional knowledge and skills at the level necessary to ensure that their linguistic analysis is performed at the highest level of competency.

4 Responses to II. Objectivity and Professional Competency

  1. John Goldsmith says:

    I’m not comfortable with II.C (“In reporting in cases…”). I’ve been a consultant in two legal proceedings, and my opinion is based on these experiences. I have two concerns with this paragraph (and I would say that the motivation for this paragraph makes sense, or at least more sense, in an academic context than in a legal one).The first is very simple: in a legal context, I believe that it is not one’s duty as an expert witness, and it is not appropriate, to provide a range of opinions that one does *not* believe to be correct, judicious, appropriate — all of the opinions that this clause is suggesting that the expert bring up. So the first concern is that this clause is asking linguists to do something that is inappropriate for the legal context in which s/he would be navigating. The second concern is that I don’t think linguists are particularly good at doing this, and it sets a standard that is unreasonably high. (This is not intended as a comment on linguists; I imagine it is true for other fields as well.) An expert witness brings a set of arguments and a reasoned opinion; it is not reasonable to expect the expert witness to also provide a range of alternative views that someone else, some other potential expert witness, might espouse.

    In short, I think the clause should be removed entirely and neither replaced nor amended. I am curious why it was put in, though — what problem is it trying to solve?

  2. Ron Butters says:

    I don’t see how IIC calls for the consulting linguist to “to provide a range of opinions that one does *not* believe to be correct, judicious, appropriate”–only to indicate, where possible, the degree of certainty that one has about one’s conclusions. (Still, e do swear to tell the “whole” truth.) By “range of judgments” we intended to reference some kind of cline from, e.g., “extremely certain” to “confident.” Should we actually spell this out?

  3. Evan Bradley says:

    I think JG’s comment was on “range of judgments”, which might have been intended more as “range of certainty”. A “range of judgments” to me connotes qualitatively different opinions, not degrees of certainty of the same judgments.

  4. Jeffrey Kallen says:

    I agree that Section C could be interpreted to request the consultant to provide a range of judgments about the data, rather than judgments about the level of certainty in making an assessment of the evidence. It’s the phrase ‘the range of judgments’ that’s problematical: if this bit were changed to read ‘consultants will indicate the level of certainty in their opinion or conclusion’, or something of this kind, I think it would be less open to misinterpretation.

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