Sunday, August 23, 2009

Expert? I report, you decide.

Matt Steffey, a professor at Mississippi College School of Law, is a familiar site in the local media, as reporters constantly interview him every time they need "expert analysis" on a story. However, how expert is the analysis? One would expect the expert to actually be an expert on the subject on which he is interviewed. He is considered the "expert" despite the fact he has not practiced law since he was fresh out of law school and has been a professor for 20 years or so. There is just one little fact which brings his expertise and the media's judgement into question, and that is this: Professor Steffey is not licensed to practice law in Mississippi. Search the Mississippi Bar's directory for yourself.

Would someone explain how Steffey is an expert on Mississippi law when he is not even licensed in Mississippi? It is understandable that reporters prefer law professors such as Steffey. When they need a quote or interview from a legal expert, it's usually on short notice, which is not convenient for most lawyers. Most lawyers also don't want to critique other lawyers and judges publicly with whom they might have to practice law . However, there are more than a few retired judges and lawyers who might be willing to give some "expert analysis" if actually asked to do so by the media. (Hmmm...could this be Larry Latham's second career?) Hopefully the local media will start seeking out actual experts and not those who play one on tv.


Anonymous said...

Too many reporters in this town are lazy.

Anonymous said...

You can't teach & practice clinical medicine at UMMC without a current license (PhDs and other researchers/teachers don't need to be licensed).

Anonymous said...

You don't need a license to call yourself a journalist either.

Anonymous said...

I guess it would be kind of like.. I am an expert on men although I am a woman?

Anonymous said...

i agree that the local news outlets could use a better legal go-to person in addition to a better variety of legal "experts."

However, the fact alone of whether one is a member of the mississippi bar is largely irrelevant to whether one can make educated and intelligent commentary on local legal matters. In fact, there is a lawyer in Mississippi who likely knows more about Mississippi law than anyone in Mississippi, and that person is not a MS licensed attorney. He's also a MC Law professor --- Jeffrey Jackson. He authors the Mississippi Practice Series in addition to a few other legal publications on Mississippi law. I would trust his opinion on legal matters before 99.99% of MS Bar members.

Anonymous said...

Um, he's been teaching at a law school for 20 years. He's an expert.

Anonymous said...

Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach. Old Chinese Proverb.

Anonymous said...

Clear example: Those that can't, teach. NOT ALWAYS, but have read if one has had words printed on any subject except medical three times or more, then they are accepted by MSM as experts.

Has anyone beside myself heard this?

Kingfish said...

Um, no he's not. First of all, they don't consult him mainly on legal theory, they consult him on local cases and judges. Lawyers laugh at him and think his analysis is either wrong or simple-minded and shows he's not practiced. He hasn't practiced in Mississippi, hasn't practiced in a courtroom here much less in over 20 years and even then it was for a short time. Being a law professor doesn't qualify one as an expert. Means you were able to teach out of a casebook and grade essay exams you created.

When I took Civil procedure at MC. there was a HUGE HUGE difference between the civ pro taught by Page, who had years of practice in the Justice Department and Callan, who taught every kind of theory possible. When we got to pretrial practice, you could tell the difference between the Page and Callen students as teh Callen students had no clue about jurisdiction as Callan had spent only a few days on it while Page spent most of the semester on the subject. As for Jackson, smart professor but if I want a quote about the local corruption and judges, he's not the expert.

Anonymous said...

KF, you are absolutely right. 9 times out of 10 his comments are wrong "as a matter of law" and the tenth time will show he has no grasp on real world law practice.

Anonymous said...

KF, when exactly did you graduate from law school?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Short comment and, in your case certainly it should be, can you please not launch such a personal attack on a person who is a good guy. What do you hope to achieve? To show that you have a severe insecurity complex.

Anonymous said...

Steffey puts himself out there in the public eye. He is fair game.

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