What Makes An Expert Witness?: The 5 C’s; Charmaine Giving Testimony At The Sotomayor Hearings


Charmaine_Yoest_CSPAN_cropped.pngThis will be Charmaine’s third appearance before Congress as an Expert Witness. She has also given testimony to state and local legislative bodies.

This is a lot of expert advice-giving. So I sat down with Charmaine and asked her,

What makes a good expert witness?

She came up with 5 C’s to follow. Watch them today at the Senate hearings for the Sotomayor confirmation.

Credentials — What makes the witness so smart? Charmaine has a terminal degree in political science and government from the University of Virginia. It took ten years. She’s been widely published and is the president and CEO of a public interest law firm. And most important: she’s appeared on every cable network. Including Hardball with Chris Matthews. (This was years…and years ago.) The Judiciary Committee requested her CV.

Character — Can the witness be destroyed? Yes, it should make no difference on the messenger’s faults in delivering the message. But ad hominem arguments are used more in this sight and sound generation. Just ask Saul Alinsky or his students. Fortunately, Charmaine has no faults.

Content — What does the witness deliver? What the witness says must be correct and must be clear — both from the witness stand and when read back by a court reporter. This takes practice and rehearsal. The witness is making an oral argument that will be captured on paper and must be readable.

Concise — Does the witness sound-bite? Long winded academics need not apply. Our short attention span populace will wonder away mentally, change channels, or do an under the table Blackberry check. Shortness works. Short words; short sentences. And short responses. This takes more practice. Mark Twain reminds us that it take two weeks to come up with a good ad lib.

Compelling — Is the witness likable? Some 85 percent of all communication is non-verbal. What the witness says is important, of course. But do we believe her? Do we like her? And, yes, her story must be believable.

Consistent — Is the witness of one mind? Harry Truman wanted only one-armed lawyers and economists to advise him; that way they’d never say “on the other hand…” Opposing counsel will provide the opposing expertise. The court will get a second witness for the second opinion. One expert witness should not advocate both sides of the argument.

This will be a good hair day for Charmaine. She is ready for the Judiciary Committee and will make an appearance that even Sotomayor’s mentor, Perry Mason, would appreciate (and he didn’t care that much for women…) (Why do we have to know that stuff?)

Be sure to follow the hearings on Charmaine’s Twitter @CharmaineYoest and Your Business Blogger(R) @JackYoest.

Charmaine is also scheduled to appear on MSNBC tonight. More later.


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