Rules on expert testimony
Improve law on experts in court
As a career prosecutor, I had the honor of serving our country for almost 30 years, first as a judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps and culminating in six years as the presidentially appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
In 1993, in a case called Daubert vs. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a new standard for the admission of expert scientific evidence in federal courts to ensure that expert opinions presented in court are reliable and based on sound science.
In the 20 years since that ruling, a majority of states have adopted that standard, but Florida's courts continue to use a 90-year-old standard that allows the admission of "pure opinion." In practice, this means that almost any so-called scientific evidence or opinion is allowed in state court.
Now, the Legislature is considering changing the law to bring Florida in line with the federal courts and the majority of states.
Opponents of the proposal say that the new standards will be costly to implement and impose a burden on the courts. In my experience, that's not true.
I worked for the U.S. Attorney's Office when the federal courts transitioned to the new standard. At that time, the workload impact consisted of a 20-minute brown bag lunch-and-learn.
In addition, there's no empirical evidence of a potential financial impact on the courts. Even if there is some yet-to-be-determined cost involved — which history shows is unlikely — isn't the pursuit of truth and justice worth it?
I've dedicated my career to aiding in the administration of justice, upholding the integrity of the law, and working hard to ensure innocent persons are not wrongfully convicted. The Florida Legislature can help others do that by passing House Bill 7015 and Senate Bill 1412.
Gregory R. Miller, U.S. attorney, 2002-08, Tallahassee
Rubio should follow Nelson's lead April 6, editorial
According to an unspoken code, politicians must have unshakable core beliefs. First, they must believe in keeping a paycheck — theirs. Second, they must believe in voting whichever way the political wind is blowing. Third, in resolving any conflict involving hotly contested issues, refer to the first unshakable core belief.
John C. Carr, Palm Harbor
I have no problem with those who honestly and as a matter of conviction favor gay marriage. What I find beyond contempt are those people with influence, like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who have a long-held religious belief in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman who suddenly, for political reasons, shift to the other side. Florida seems to have more than its share of flip-floppers.
Bill Bravick, Tampa
Families need more options | April 5, letter
Hospice care standards
Medicare recipients and all others who become hospice patients in Florida are cared for by some of our nation's finest hospices. While some localities may have single hospice providers, all hospices in our state are guided by a Certificate of Need, which holds them to a rigorous set of patient-care guidelines. Failure to meet CON requirements carries serious consequences.
Having a "physical plant" and "administrative overhead," cited by the letter writer, is more about infrastructure than it is about the provision of quality hospice care. The essence of exemplary hospice care is its spirit of compassion and commitment to patient and family choice. Hospice care is unique in that it is guided by patient and family decisions. Therefore, hospice care is provided in the settings patients choose, such as private homes, hospitals or nursing homes, not solely in prescribed locations.
It is important to note that hospice patients are never required to give up their own, trusted physicians. In fact, many doctors recommend hospice care to their patients. When patients want to keep their own doctors involved in their care, hospice doctors and care teams are pleased to collaborate with them.
A number of studies have shown that hospice care is economically sound and, more important, enhances quality of life for patients and their families. Hospices are as committed to compassionate care as they are to resolving pain and symptom issues. In addition, hospices guide and support family caregivers, resulting in increased confidence and peace of mind as they care for their loved ones.
Rafael J. Sciullo, president and CEO, Suncoast Hospice, Clearwater
Informed debate can only aid pier April 5, editorial
Not what was planned
Misinformation is a good description for the statement that the Lens design "hews closely to one of the options put forth by a citizen task force." The Lens proponents claimed in May 2012 that the original, contest-winning design was based on the task force's Alternative 4. The task force Alternative 4 had two main features: a 36,000-square-foot main building built on the upland to house 26,000 square feet of restaurant space for multiple restaurants and banquet space; and 5,000 square feet each for retail and public use and a single, straight, 500-foot-long landscaped pedestrian and fishing pier to a 100-by-100-foot pier head with a small structure.
The original Lens design, however, provided only 6,000 square feet of kiosks for snacks and shops on the upland. It featured two curved bridges with one flying over the other, each over 1,000 feet in length, out to a 7,000-square-foot collection of low concrete platforms and a 250-square-foot gelato stand.
On top of this so-called promontory was an abstract structure 350-plus feet wide and 90 feet high. The main building, the proven attraction recommended by the task force in all of its alternatives, was not part of the Lens.
Since then, the design has been amended to include a potential 7,500-square-foot restaurant on the upland and a 900-square-foot open grill on the promontory. But they will still offer less than a third of the restaurant capacity recommended by the task force.
Neither the claim of the Lens proponents nor your "hews closely" statement are supported by the facts.
William C. Ballard, president, Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg Inc.