Donald Frangipani
Forensic Document Examiner

Supreme Court Delivers Blow
To Autograph Authentication! 

High Court ruling sides with Forensic Document
Examiners as Experts rather than practical experience.

    (March 23, 1999: Gumbo Tire Co. v. Carmichael) The U.S. Supreme Court by an 8-1 ruling told federal trial judges to screen out dubious testimony by self-proclaimed experts when opinions are not based in science.
    The ruling extends to all manners of individuals such as engineers, psychologists, accountants or handwriting analysts. Before they are permitted to testify to juries, stated examiners must show that their opinions are based on "scientific principals," 
and not just a hunch based on  self-described practical experience.
    The high court has shown a skepticism toward hired self-proclaimed experts. Six years ago, the Supreme Court said that lower courts should act as "gatekeepers" and to carefully examine testimony by these applicants. Judges should look beyond advertised qualifications and examine the basis of their conclusions on facts.

What does this mean to the industry?
    The decision delivers a major blow to the autograph industry. For years, dealers have served as their own authenticators relying on their stated experience to render an autograph authentic or not. Their reputation and experience have been readily accepted by collectors, auction houses and other dealers. Unfortunately, their opinions are not based on "scientific methods" and can be very subjective. They do not have a laboratory and have not apprenticed under anyone trained.  Many fabricate their credentials and are clearly not Court Qualified and/or Board Certified. Their opinions are based solely on their self proclaimed experience. 

What does this mean to the collector?
    Simple, if a dealer-authenticated autograph is disputed and taken to court it will not hold up unless the dealer used scientific forensic techniques. Without credentials and facts the dealer will not be allowed to testify because they are not considered experts by the court. You, the collector, will be left hanging. The federal courts will rely on established Court Qualified & Board Certified Forensic Document Examiners as their experts

Donald Frangipani
(718) 232-3209
(718) 232-3209