There has been much discussion recently about how Rule 702 is in need of a tune-up to better guide district courts’ gatekeeping. More about that soon.
But a case now pending before the Supreme Court, Monsanto Company v. Hardeman, No. 21-241, demonstrates that it’s not always the fault of the district courts. (Disclaimer: This firm (and this author) filed an amicus brief supporting certiorari.) Sometimes it’s about a lack of stewardship at the circuit level. Absent direct and unequivocal guidance from the Supreme Court, appellate courts call the tune, and the district courts are required to follow it. And in the interstices, district judges read the tea leaves and try to follow the circuit court’s leads and signals. No one likes to get reversed. Even if the district judges think the circuit has gotten it wrong, they honor the hierarchy and follow the commands of stare decisis, human nature and common sense.