Court appointed experts are one of the most important means of assisting the judiciary in performing its duties when it is presented with an issue requiring the technical opinion of a person with industry expertise. It is well known that, although the judge is of the highest authority in the legal field, the judge does not rule based on his personal knowledge of non-legal matters. There must be tools available to help the judge in some of the issues of specialization, which are more familiar to a specialist, and hence comes the role of the expert and the importance of his reports during proceedings.
Despite the importance of the role of the court appointed expert, his intervention may be a reason to prolong the proceedings in some cases. Therefore, Law No. 16 of 2017 regarding Court Appointed Experts (the “Law”) was recently promulgated with a view to developing the judicial system and reducing the length of litigation proceedings.
The Law establishes a Committee within the Ministry of Justice which shall be comprised of three members appointed by the Minister of Justice, in addition to a Cassation Court Judge appointed by the Supreme Judiciary Council, a Public Prosecution member appointed by the Attorney General, and two court experts appointed by the Minister of Justice.
The Ministry of Justice will also establish a court expert register to list experts in their respective fields, which will also include a data-bank of all the matters the expert has opined.
For registration, a court expert must meet the following criteria (for natural persons):
- Be of Qatari nationality. An exemption for non-Qatari nationals may be made by the Minister of Justice.
- Hold an academic diploma in his field from a recognized university.
- Be of good standing and repute.
- Have no record of a criminal or immoral related final judgement against him.
- Have not had any final decision removing him from the registrar.
- Hold at least ten years of post-graduate experience.
- Be of good medical condition to practice as a court expert.
- Have approval from his employer.
- Pass the tests and trainings set by the Ministry of Justice.
Legal persons looking to register as judicial experts must abide by the following criteria:
- Must be a Qatari company registered pursuant to the Commercial Companies Law No. 11 of 2015, with Qatari shareholding at a minimum of 51%.
- Not have a record of a final judgment for bankruptcy against it.
- The natural person judicial experts employed by the legal person applicant must abide by their respective criteria.
An interesting option provided for by the Law is the option to register an international consultancy firm as a court expert in the corresponding register.
The rules and regulations governing the registration process, including that of international consultancy firms, are expected to be promulgated by the Minister of Justice in fulfillment of the Law.
The Law also establishes a department within the Ministry of Justice named the Department of Experts. The role of the Department shall be the oversight of the court expert register and receipt of registration applications. The Department must decide on an application for a person to be registered as an expert within thirty days of the application being lodged with the Department. If the thirty days expire without the applicant receiving a response from the Department, the Department would be deemed to have rejected the application. A rejected applicant may appeal to the Minister of Justice within thirty days of the written, or deemed, rejection. The Minister of Justice will determine the appeal within fifteen days. If fifteen days expire, the Ministry of Justice is deemed to have rejected the appeal.
Complaints procedures, penalties, and disciplinary measures are also outlined in the Law. Penalties escalate from removal of a court expert from the register to imprisonment up to a year and/or a 50,000 Qatari Riyal fine.