This past April, the Arizona legislature passed a law which set new standards for expert witness testimony. SB 1189 The additional standards for an expert witness, known as the Daubert standards, make a trial judge the gatekeeper for the type of expert witness testimony that can be heard, but require the trial judge to apply certain (higher) standards for that testimony. Even though family law cases are not heard in jury trials, the Daubert standards are still likely to have an effect on family law trials that involve experts in the areas of custody, parental alienation, and even business and property valuations.
A Maricopa County judge ruled on September 24 that the Daubert standards are unconstitutional and violate separation of powers, as the standards are contrary to the Rules of Evidence. The trial court ruled that only the State Supreme Court, and not the legislature, can set the rules of procedure and evidence to be used in the trial courts.
This argument was a major point of dissention when SB1189 was being considered by the legislature last session. The Arizona Supreme Court had already rejected the application of Daubert standards in its 2000 decision in Logerquist v. McVey
An appeal of this ruling is certain, so the Arizona Court of Appeals, and then likely the Arizona Supreme Court, will be addressing Daubert standards again.