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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Science & Research

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Volume III - 8.1 Introduction

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Other Laboratory Operations

Food and Drug Administration

DOCUMENT NO.:

III-08

VERSION NO.:1.3

Section 8 - Courtroom Testimony

EFFECTIVE DATE:
10-01-03
REVISED: 01-29-13

Science plays an increasingly significant role in many types of legal proceedings. The regulatory analyst is aware that their analytical methods and findings may be challenged in a court of law. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act deals with government's attempts to protect public health and individual welfare by regulating the development and marketing of essential commodities. Analysts, engineers, inspectors, and investigators all play a part in the regulatory process, working in concert to uncover and document violations of the law. These violations of the law may stimulate a variety of responses, such as the warning letters, injunctions, seizure, civil and criminal charges and voluntary actions by the food industry and other responsible parties. 

If subpoenaed to appear as a witness in a court case, the analyst should try to gain as much information as possible about the trial process and what to expect. The potential witness should know the basics of the work performed, be aware of proper deportment in the courtroom, and understand the elements of the scientific defense. A prospective witness, who is particularly nervous about testifying in court, should "sit in" on a trial where scientific testimony is being given. Most court sessions are open to the public. Local court cases regarding illicit drug use, possession, or sale, which sometimes involve scientific testimony, occur almost daily in most moderately sized communities. Call the local district attorney's office or courthouse to find out when such cases will be tried. This chapter includes an attachment, "Deportment in the Courtroom - A Guide for the Witness and Those Who Aid in Court Cases", which offers helpful suggestions for potential witnesses.

Analysts who expect to testify should contact others in the field or headquarters who have experience in testifying in agency-related matters; analysts, compliance officers, General Counsel, and others can provide valuable information and insight. Staging a mock trial with laboratory personnel, investigations, and/or compliance personnel can be an excellent preparation exercise.  Take advantage of oral reviews to practice answering questions related to analytical work if conducted at the district office or laboratory.

This chapter provides general guidelines and suggestions for the potential witness. Additional sources on science based testimony are given in part 8.5 General References.