The role of the expert witness in court proceedings is an important part of the American judicial system. Sociologists can make substantial contributions to the way in which the law as an institution evolves if they increase their availability and participation in legal proceedings. One way to do this is as an expert witness. In court, expert witnesses can do what no other witnesses can do: they may offer opinions and conclusions based solely on their professional training and expertise. This provides them with a special role and opportunity to define areas of the law, such as what constitutes a family, what the "best interests of the child" are in a custody determination, or when incarceration in a treatment facility would be efficacious. To be effective in this role, sociologists must understand what courts look for in an expert witness, the limitations of court procedures, and the best way in which to present testimony. Additionally, sociologists can be "experts" as consultants to attorneys in the preparation of cases for trial, and as adjuncts to the judiciary in serving as clinicians or investigators for the courts. The sociological perspective has much to offer, and the application of that perspective as an expert witness is an interesting and appropriate role for the sociologist who wishes to help define reality beyond the classroom.

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