wislawjournal.com recently reported that "Milwaukee County Circuit Court Chief Judge Jeff Kremers issued a directive Monday morning that reimbursement of court-appointed expert witnesses should not exceed $2,800 at a maximum rate of $150 per hour." How is this likely to affect businesses involved in litigation in Milwaukee County?
Business disputes often arise over what the "value" of something is, whether it be the value of a business or the value of a contract. So, when the court is perplexed, the court often seeks advice from an expert, appointed by the court, to help the court decide. Now, in Milwaukee County, the courts are limiting the charges such experts can charge for their services to $2,800 and $150 per hour. Many such experts often are paid double or triple that amount to perform their services. Do judges think that just because they appoint such experts that they are going to be willing to work for a lesser payment? And if they do, will their work be of the same quality as that for which they get paid in full?
The parties to litigation have to bear the costs of litigation, even the costs of experts appointed by the judge. Consequently, it is no cost to the court, the county, or the taxpayer if the court pays experts an appropriate fee for their services.
If a judge relies on an expert’s opinion and the expert is all wrong, will an appeals court overturn a judge based upon such discount basement pricing?
All this remains to be played out, and only appellate decisions will give us the answers to these questions. However, I think this will get business litigants thinking hard as they consider settlement negotiations and ultimately may be overruled by a judge using his or her own experts.