This author has discovered a disturbing trend among expert witnesses which serves as nothing more than a barrier which effectively denies self-represented litigants of their right to present expert testimony in court. For nearly a month I have contacted many companies that claim to work as agents that match people with expert witnesses and many experts directly. They all respond by directing me to have my attorney contact them and when I tell them I am representing myself they say that they only work with attorneys. Today I am fighting back hoping that if I can convince enough people to stop doing business with them that they will start doing business with self-represented parties. I am stopping short at demanding that they take any case from anyone willing to pay them, but I am demanding that they at least agree to review all cases based on their merits for anyone willing to pay them and stop categorically refusing to review cases at all just because the person offering to pay them for their work is not a lawyer.
I am a plaintiff in lawsuit against Multnomah County which includes a claim of inadequate medical care following a serious injury I suffered while incarcerated at the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC). I held off on looking for an expert until the court ruled on the viability of my claim because I didn't want to waste money on an expert unless the court agreed that it was the type of claim that expert testimony could substantiate. This was done via a bifurcated summary judgment phase in which the parties and court agreed to postpone evaluating claims which require expert testimony until after challenges to all other claims could be resolved. Among the claims to survive that phase are that Multnomah County was deliberately indifferent to my serious medical needs in violation of the federal constitution and negligent under state law. To succeed on such claims I just need an expert to review my medical records and say that "medical staff did not meet the applicable standard of care exercised by a reasonably careful medical professional with like training and expertise in the community" (see https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/sullivan-multnomah-summary-judgment-order.pdf) which shouldn't be too hard since it seems their only defense so far relies on excuses for not meeting the applicable standard of care such as security risks associated with meeting that standard.
The main reason why experts refuse to work with self represented parties seems to be a believe that if no lawyer will take your case that you have no case. I assume that such logic is usually correct, but at the same time it fails to consider the needs of a class of people that lack access to legal counsel. Those are people who lawyers are unwilling to work with for reasons irrelevant to the merits of their case. I have learned that I belong to this class for financial and personal reasons.
Those who cannot afford to pay a lawyer hundreds of dollars an hour to represent them regardless of outcome are usually unable to pursue a lawsuit unless a lawyer is willing to represent them on a contingency basis. I have learned that I belong to this class because I don't have enough money sitting in a bank account to cover all the expenses of a case up front and my credit stinks due to all my bank accounts being closed automatically after I went to prison due to auto-billing overdrawing them. It is common when people are denied pretrial release for this to happen if they don't have anybody on the outside with the access needed to cancel their bills after they no longer have an income. This did not discourage me at first because most personal injury lawyers only work on contingency, so I figured as long as I have a strong case I could find a lawyer who would only be paid after I won. Unfortunately, I raise certain red flags that discourage lawyers from working with me.
There are some people that the legal community considers to be nightmare clients and such people typically can never get a lawyer to represent them on a contingency basis. I am considered to be one such person because I regularly speak out against members of the law enforcement community including the defendants in my lawsuit. Those activities could guarantee that any lawyer who takes the case will be bombarded with discovery by the defense which they will try to admit as evidence of my views against their clients. As evidence of this I was appointed two lawyers to represent me in federal court on relatively minor charges by the CJA Panel because it was determined that one lawyer couldn't handle the workload. That continued to be the case when the guilt phase ended and I was released on supervision. It is practically unheard of for the CJA Panel to appoint co-counsel in the first place let alone allow that to remain the case after supervision has commenced. It is likely that a lawyer who represents me in a civil case against multiple defendants including the named victim from the criminal case would have a hard time serving their other clients. Most lawyers seem incapable of overcoming the context of a criminal defendant that pled guilty to assault suing the named victim. If asked independently if someone can assault someone and sue them for excessive retaliation they always agree that they can, but when asked to actually back up their opinions by helping with a case like that they almost always decline.
In my case I threw a handful of spicy chips in the face of a deputy on the 5th floor of MCDC, I was taken to the 4th floor, placed on a mattress face down, and the guy I threw the chips at uncuffed my left arm, twisted it away from my body, and broke my humerus in half. The county of course claims that the arm was broken during the initial encounter on the 5th floor and does all they can to imply that the guilty plea supports their claim even though the record from the plea hearing clearly shows that I only admitted to throwing chips. I made it clear that I never elbowed or otherwise physically struck any deputy, but civil lawyers just say "you pled guilty, can't help you." They stick to their guns even after I point out that an expert already debunked the county's causation theory during the criminal case and agreed to help with the civil one. The county's best shot at winning is to convince a jury that a "pop" that the deputies claim to have heard on the 5th floor was the arm breaking, that I never showed any sign of pain until after they left me in a cell on the 4th floor (which they use to imply that the break must not have been bad even though it is one of the worst breaks possible), and that someone with an injury like that managed to "fight ferociously" the entire time they were being transported from one floor to the other. One would think a civil litigator would jump at the opportunity to take a case in which objectively unreasonable force was so obviously used.
Unfortunately, civil litigators often consider the personal characteristics of prospective clients as relevant to their claims. If think they cannot convince an emotionally unstable creature too dumb to get out of jury duty to feel much sympathy for their client then they might not represent that person regardless of the merits of their claim. This is the part that seems to hurt me the most because I do all I can to punish any member of law enforcement that so much as inconveniences me. One lawyer told me that even if he could convince a jury to believe my version of events that they likely would not want to award me much money as if to imply that some jurors might think that I deserved to have my arm broken for threatening to publish home addresses of multiple deputies on this site before they decided to enter my 5th floor cell. That lawyer didn't change his mind after I pointed out that the suit would seek compensation for his fees in addition to whatever the jury decides to award me. Under that scheme I could be awarded just $1 and the defense would still have to pay reasonable attorney's fees on top of that. Civil litigators seem to lump all criminals into the same category unless they are non-violent offenders. I got the impression that they view me no different than a rapist suing his victim for physically retaliating long after the rape was over with because surely no jury would want to award a rapist money even if the victim had no right to use force at the time, they would just say it served him right for raping her earlier and that their sympathies rest with the person provoked by being raped. This is of course not remotely similar, but for bubble people that view most criminals the same way that does not matter.
If a person cannot convince any lawyer to take their case on contingency regardless of merit due to their personal characteristics and cannot afford to pay a lawyer to take a case regardless of its outcome then they have no choice but to seek justice on their own. When they seek justice on their own they already have a hard enough time dealing with legal hurdles that exist for anyone regardless of intellect whose never tried a case before. I have a Bachelor Degree and do well on intelligence tests which probably has something to do with why one of my former lawyers called me one of the best pro se brief writers he has ever seen. I am someone perfectly capable of pursuing my case to the end even if it means I might not do as well at a trial as an experienced lawyer might. I say "might" because often I see lawyers take a timid approach that I would never take, so it can be beneficial to be self represented because you know you can say and do stuff no licensed attorney ever would. The biggest hurdle I have it seems isn't my skill, but my status. If I cannot find an expert willing to review my medical records then my case will not survive no matter how good it is. That is why I am fighting back.
I am fighting back on behalf of myself as well as every similarly situated self-represented person unable to exercise their right to present expert testimony due solely to their status of not being a lawyer. From now on whenever anyone who advertises expert witness services either as an agency or as an expert themselves refuses to work with me I will add their information to the following list:
- "At this time, we only support law firms"
Round Table Group - The Experts on Experts
"We appreciate your interest in Round Table Group. We work exclusively with attorney clients to identify experts and expert resources to assist in litigation matters. Since you are contacting me through a generic email address, I do need to confirm that you are an attorney. If not, please have your attorney contact us." - Cathy Franczyk
Med Connect Pro
"MedConnect Pro does not work directly with Plaintiffs. Our clients are Attorneys and Insurance Companies. I hope you can find a medical expert to assist you." - Dawn Peront
-Denial by phone
Dr. Gary Ciment
- "I'm afraid that it is my unshakeable policy never to interact directly with clients -- only through their lawyers. And, if a client is representing himself or herself, then I cannot be involved at all as an expert witness."
"Thank you for your email. I can empathize with your position. Unfortunately, we are unable to assist. Our website is freely accessible and the contact information for experts is visible 24/7. You can try reaching out to them individually. Experts, however, do generally want to work directly with a lawyer rather than a party, regardless of self-representation. " - Nick Rishwain, JD, Vice President of Client Relations & Development
Unfortunately, most experts I have reached out to have not responded at all. I tried moving on to local orthopedic doctors, but they always say that they don't do expert testimony period and recommend looking for people that are retired or advertise expert testimony. I am tired of this, so from now on I will add names to the above list whenever an expert or company that works with experts categorically refuses to work with me just for being self-represented. If they want to be removed from the list all they have to do is start working with self represented litigants.
From now on only working for lawyers will no longer be good for these businesses.
If you know of an expert witness or a company that matches people with experts that won't work with self represented litigants please post them in the comments section below.