November 03, 2016

The Death of Frye: The District of Columbia Embraces Daubert

In a landmark decision, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals recently adopted the Daubert standard, superseding the District’s nearly century-long application of the Frye test. In its October 20 decision on Motorola, Inc. v. Murray (Case No. 14-CV-1350, 2016 WL 6134870 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 20, 2016), the Court adopted Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, thus dismissing the “general acceptance test” established by Frye and adopting the “reliability test” set forth in Daubert. Id.

The Court noted that while Rule 702 and Daubert are at times criticized “for producing inconsistent results, for making unqualified judges evaluate the work of scientists, and for invading the province of the jury,” Frye “excludes scientifically reliable evidence which is not yet generally accepted, and admits scientifically unreliable evidence which although generally accepted, cannot meet rigorous scientific scrutiny.” Id., quoting State v. Coon, 974 P.2d 386, 394 (Alaska 1999). The Court found Daubert to be preferable because it allows a court to accept into evidence “a reliable, but not yet generally accepted methodology [that] produces ‘good science’,” and exclude a generally accepted methodology that produces 'bad science.'” Id. at *5, quoting Coon, 974 P.2d at 394. Accordingly, Rule 702 now applies to all cases pending in D.C. courts in which the trial is set after October 20, 2016. The Court declined to make a decision as to whether Rule 702 will apply to cases that have already been decided, but are not final on direct appeal.

Read the Opinion of the Court

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