Report: Department Of Justice Expert Witnesses Abused Funds

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A recent Inspector General report shows that the Department of Justice (DOJ) spent millions on unnecessary expert witnesses, who often broke the rules by splurging on hotels and first class flights, the Washington Examiner reports.

The report reviewed 729 expert witness contract files from DOJ offices nationwide, finding that at least 10 percent of the sample was fraught with blatant waste and misuse of funds, totaling $15 million. For 39 other contract files, it was unclear whether the use of funds was permissible under existing guidelines due to ambiguity. Just those 39 files added an additional $10 million to the total. The IG determined that the antitrust division of the DOJ abused expert witness funds the most.

Expert witnesses often ran up their hotel bills far over the prescribed limit, and not only did expert witnesses maneuver around the requirements, but DOJ officials purposefully paid $1.2 million for legal proceedings completely outside the U.S. judicial system.

These same officials forked out $8.4 million for witnesses that weren’t even required, and the witnesses were hired even though officials had no evidence a trial was needed. Although the guidelines state that a court date is necessary, over half of the examined cases showed that the DOJ flagrantly disregarded the regulations. Linguists were hired, too, even though the program expressly forbids using funds for that purpose.

And in spite of the fact that the program ran a surplus of $210 million, the Obama administration in 2014 requested an additional $270 million to be added to the budget.

The IG produced 12 recommendations for the DOJ to implement in the future, including updated and clearer guidelines as to who is supposed to oversee and monitor funds for expert witness contracts. As well, the DOJ needs to educate its staff and “[p]rovide clear guidance to department attorneys and administrative staffs on the necessary elements of an expert witness contract to be paid with FEW funding,” the report said.

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