Friday, May 2, 2014

The Role of Experts in Omani Courts

The Omani judicial system is inquisitorial in nature; judges have the ultimate authority to make inquiries and to investigate the facts and evidential documentation of the cases before them. At times, the court decides to appoint an expert to assist it in its decision-making process.

The appointed experts are independent and are usually chosen from a panel, which the court utilizes. Court-appointed experts come from various different professional backgrounds, e.g., accountants, engineers, mechanics etc., and are chosen as per the nature of the case and in accordance with the requirements of the case and the court. Furthermore, the court may choose an expert from a governmental entity depending on the dispute and requirements of the case.

Once the expert is chosen, the court dictates to the parties the level of the expert fees and which party should make the payment. A mission statement is given to the expert instructing them on the scope of work to perform. This usually requires the expert to conduct meetings with the parties of the case, undertake site visits and examine documentation and records. Experts are then required to draft a report and present it to the court addressing the matters provided in the mission statement.

The law governing court-appointed experts is Ministerial Decision 77/2002 (as amended) and it also issues the Executive Regulations Governing Expert Work before the Courts to regulate the way experts are required to conduct their work. For instance, court-appointed experts must be independent and licensed in the prescribed profession with a minimum of five year’s work experience. The court is the supervisory body monitoring the work of the experts and overlooking any complaints or unethical conduct. Accordingly, a file on each court-appointed expert will be kept by the court and all complaints, penalties and notices as regards to the expert will be documented and kept on the file for this purpose.

MD 77/2002 also provides court-appointed experts with a number of powers, for instance, court-appointed experts have the authority to enter establishments and entities (with a court order) and investigate records and company documents.

Court-appointed experts are required to strictly obey the courts and adhere to an ethical code of conduct as provided in MD 77/2002. In short, court-appointed experts must conduct their work with integrity and honesty. Moreover, the expert report must reflect absolute independence and impartiality.