I have been a Document Examiner/Handwriting Expert for over 40 years. In terms of the scientific authorities in the field, nothing has really changed in those 40 years. The accepted authorities remain: Robert Saudek-“Experiments with Handwriting” mentioned by the instructor in my Secret Service training class as the “best book on the subject of handwriting EVER even though it was written in 1926. Robert Saudek published 107 books and treatises in his short 55 years(when he died from a septic ulcer), many on the subject of handwriting. The next authority, Wilson Harrison-“Suspect Documents” is the best general book on the entire field of Questioned Documents(Saudek mainly focused on handwriting) followed by Ordway Hilton: “Scientific Examination of Questioned Documents” which covers more topics well than all other books. This is followed by Hanna Sulner: “Disputed Documents” which thoroughly covers many health issues in the writing. Lastly, we have Albert S. Osborn, much of his topics on typewriters and photography are outdated but his declination of procedures and logic in the field still apply today. There are other noteworthy authors such as Hagan and Ainsworth who preceded Osborn who are noteworthy because of the knowledge of “Physiology” of handwriting, though excellent are not as widely accepted as authoritative because they preceded Osborn but should not go unread.
Now I mention these authorities to make the point that they collectively set forth tested procedures that, if followed, guarantee accurate conclusions, 99.99% of the time, the key words being “if followed properly” It seems most handwriting experts today don’t thoroughly understand the authorities (Primarily Saudek-the top) much less follow them precisely. If a Document Examiner recognizes a particular text as authoritative, they can NOT contradict them unless new research done in accordance with recently approved Daubert standards proves them wrong on the particular point in question)
What I set out to do when I started my practice was to memorize those books by outlining them on 3×5 cards and carrying them around with me everywhere I went and when I had a spare moment, reading those cards over and over and over again until by the time I was close to 30-some 35 years ago, I could quote chapter and verse on the stand, something now, the ravages of time has stolen from me, but I can still read whatever it is I have forgotten.
I say this because it is quite apparent that Document Examiners with whom I come in frequent contact in the Phila/NJ area, it seems, have not even thoroughly read these books nor understand or follow them, much less read them and forgotten parts of them.
A recent example of this is one Bob Baier, a retired Gym teacher allegedly trained by one Kathy Koppenhaver, one of whose students, Tamara Kaiden failed to qualify as an expert based on the alleged training by her. Baier rendered an opinion recently in a case in which I was involved on photocopies of documents using only four known samples even though an FBI Bulletin states that photocopies are not suitable for cases involving of forgery IE simulation or tracing Furthermore, no known authority allows ANY expert to render an opinion on ANY “forgery” (IE simulation or tracing, simply because copies do not always reveal hidden proof of “forgery”) based on so few exemplars-not even Koppenhaver’s book, which I find poor in my professional opinion, used to train Baier, who BTW in a prior case testified he needs at least 15 samples(WRONG) You can’t fully fault the lawyers and judges who come in contact with the likes of Baier, but I assume they all know how to read, especially authoritative text books when they have a handwriting case before them. They can certainly quote case law they should also quote authoritative texts to take the time to properly support their findings and conclusions But there are other reasons lawyers hire experts with less than stellar qualifications and it has to do with fees. Many simply don’t want to pay highly qualified experts. I hear the complaints all the time. They are too expensive.
I don’t mean to pick on just Baier when you have experts like Janet Leonard(AKA, J. Write Leonard) whom at least six courts have found not credible, or Bill Riess, nice guy that he is, whom the court said was nothing more than “an advocate in expert’s closing” or Karolyn Kurts who admitted on the stand she had information in her file favorable to the other side and finally admitted it on the stand after taking money to appear in court for her client. And finally you have Karl Schaffenberger an exert with MANY years experience who should know better who got blasted by a judge and had his client’s case dismissed with prejudice because he failed to follow proper procedure which was cited on the record as stated to me by my attorney/client.
Another expert who has come to my attention recently through a colleague in NY is one Jeffrey Luber. On the surface his credentials seem impressive to the uninformed-certified by the ABFDE(for whatever that’s worth), member of the QD section of AAFS, Member of ACQDE, the private club started by the Osborns.
However, all I had to do is read a couple cases in which he testified to cast serious doubt, in my professional opinion about his knowledge of Questioned Documents and his integrity. For example, in the matter of James M. Lavender, the court found:”…He did not render an opinion that shed any meaningful doubt on Mr. Lavender having executed and published the 1998 Financial Statement” In another case, Mr Luber actually took money from a client to testify based on a review of a copy of a fax, despite, an FBI Bulletin that states: “A photocopy is generally considered unsuitable for cases involving forgery…”(IE simulation or tracing)One can only conclude from this that Mr. Luber was either ignorant or dishonest, neither conclusion putting him in a favorable light. He lists all his cases on his website and I have made a copy. Perhaps, it is time to take a more careful look at them.
The list goes on. Many of these expert’s paid Dr. Robert O’Block thousands of dollars for what Joe Wells, former FBI Agent wrote were worthless pieces of paper when, as head of his Certification Committee for Questioned Documents, I discovered O’Block went behind my back and gave worthless certifications to people I rejected, without my knowledge or consent. He admitted this to Marcel Matley a document examiner and me. This was all reported on WWWTheRipoffReport.com that Dr. O’Block apparently paid an attorney to remove but was nevertheless true
Then of course, there is Bart Baggett(about whom I just got a call today, May 27, 2015 who is being sued for fraud by 54 students for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for a handwriting course the court ruled he wasn’t qualified to teach because he himself was found not qualified and his father was convicted of fraud. He filed so many frivolous law suits the court has now barred him from suing anybody.
These are many of the same students I tried to teach, years ago until Edna Robertson, head of WADE, now defunct, published a deliberately false article about me that took a line in my resume that said 250,000 DOCUMENTS examined and deliberately changed the word “DOCUMENTS” to CASES and told a room full of people I claimed to have worked 250,000 CASES and could not possibly have done an adequate job. I don’t know if Robertson is still alive but if she is, there is still time to admit to me she lied before she leaves this earth-and she did it to prevent me from helping her members, many of whom got cheated by Baggett and O’Block.
All of this information is readily available on the net so it makes one wonder how a client could be so stupid as to hire experts SO unqualified MUCH LESS ATTORNEYS And make no mistake, many attorneys are opting out of the hiring of experts because they don’t want to pay and leaving it to the client as I said, is playing Russian Roulette with their case. It is insulting to a highly qualified expert like me to be manipulated over money and is making me reluctant to get involved with such characters. But it is the client who ultimately loses when an attorney pressures them to settle for less when a modicum of effort would yield a LOT more.
So my final word of caution here is that, as an attorney, research your expert and don’t base your hiring on who has the lowest fee or the fanciest office and choose the one who has numerous letters of praise from may attorneys and judges. Don’t risk your case and your client’s money on experts the courts have found not qualified and were not trained by reputable agencies like The FBI or Secret Service.
Of course, I understand there are those few attorneys who will hire the cheapest and least experienced experts because they know that expert has a 50/50 chance of being right, even if they guess, and if they happen to guess right, the other side will not hire a highly qualified expert and risk paying a fee for a report that just might agree with their adversary. Instead, they will hire an equally unqualified expert and pray for a settlement, but possibly depriving their client of a much bigger award. The bottom line is that, unless it is a MAJOR case worth millions, attorneys have no interest in paying highly qualified and experienced experts when they can get a favorable opinion CHEAP and use it to force a settlement even if that settlement could have been more with a top expert. The culture is changing in the law today-quick, easy money-very little effort. The ultimate example of this is a case in which I was recently consulted regarding one Curt Baggestt, the father of the aforementioned Bart. Curt was actually hired by an attorney to render an opinion despite the fact that he is a convicted felon and one judge said he should be in jail. One wonders what the attorney who hired him was thinking. What an insult to an honest, hard working Document Examiner, regardless of the fact that some judge actually qualified him to testify. No one is perfect.
This leads to my next topic, which should probably be another blog.
CHANGING CULTURE IN LAW/ LAWYERS-THE QUICK BUCK WITH LITTLE EFFORT
You don’t have to guess what I think of attorneys who are looking for quick easy money with minimal effort and expense. You see them all the time on TV. They are like Carnival Barkers. They mention the word “serious” numerous times–translation-don’t bother me with a small case, I want to make a lot of money quickly with little effort. Several say they have won millions and millions for their clients-translation-they have won millions for themselves. The question I have is: “At what point do they decide they have already made enough money so they can now actually HELP middle class or poor people get justice who have valid cases that may actually require them to do SOME work to win. Most decent lawyers I know hate these guys. They dishonor the profession. Allowing lawyers to advertise on TV was a BIG mistake in my opinion–all other media-fine, but not TV. The ads are ubiquitous and sickening, in my opinion and I am sure in the opinion of most others and I know a lot of people whose valid cases have been rejected as not being worthy of the effort-agree but as a result don’t get justice when thorough discovery may yield a BIG winner. These lawyers HAVE to now they are being mocked w/their flailing arms and imploring you to call them. Yes, Quick easy money is the goal of the lawyers and if a client gets SOME, that’s ok too.
I am experiencing this right now with a case of my own where I was thrown off of an ambulance by the Mt. Ephraim Police department for failure to strap me in and suffering permanent injury, only to find that the medical transport company driving me to and from PT is transporting 4 other patients who had the same accident, according to one of the drivers. We are in the process of verifying the accuracy of those statements now but I can not find a lawyer who wants to put out the effort to help me, nor a Doctor willing to testify as an expert,but I will persist.
But such is the case with the legal profession today. Many attorneys view personal injury cases as the Irish Sweepstakes, but if you don’t have a major injury, don’t bother even calling though cases exist where attorneys sued just for punitive damages and got tens of thousands of dollars even though their clients were not seriously injured.Its all about quick easymoney, not helping people.
Again, in my 40 years as an expert, I can’t even count the thousands of hours of pro bono or reduced fee work I have done for people who have called me. I NEVER turn anyone down. The way I figure it is that God is sending me that person because He knows I will try my best to help
Of course, if you have a LOT of money, you can always “buy” justice like OJ did and companies and many other wealthy companies and individuals do. The average person can not afford a seat at the table and no one gets to hear their valid case. This should bother those in power but apparently it doesn’t.
It is called justice for sale.The court system is really NOT available to the middle-class anymore and no one seems to care–unless you happen to be rear-ended by an oil truck and are disabled for life.
Yes indeed, our justice system is in troubled and being kidnapped by the wealthy and judges and the media show little interest in correcting the problem and why should they they are getting paid millions to run STUPID ads