How to measure an expert? By the yardstick, of course – Post Bulletin


“You swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so God help you?”

I was surprised at how nervous I felt. I had spent hundreds of hours covering court proceedings from the press gallery. But I had never been a part of it until now.

I tried to keep my raised right hand from shaking, but it sounded like I was waving at the judge.

“I do.”

“Please say and spell your full name.”

I wasn’t sure if that included my middle name or not, but I decided to err on the side of caution: “Daniel Michael Conradt,” and spelled all three of them.

“Thank you, Mr. Conradt. Please sit down.”

It was the kind of case that made “Judge Judy” a daytime television staple – a man slipped and fell on a snowy sidewalk outside a local business. His injuries were not serious, but he claimed the store owner had ample time to clear the sidewalk after the snow stopped and his inability to do so contributed to the fall.

The injured man wanted the store owner to pay for his medical bills.

The subpoena had arrived in my mail a few weeks earlier; he wasn’t exactly calling me an “expert witness”, but that’s what they would have called me on “Law And Order”.

I was on a first name basis with the attorneys in the case and I loved them both; we shared a common disappointment with the Twins and frustration with the Vikings.

“Mr. Conradt,” the injured man’s attorney began, “would you tell the court where you are employed and give a brief explanation of your duties.”

In a one-person department, “radio station news director” was a grander title than the job deserved, so I tried to make my answer sound like testifying in front of a court and not at a job interview.

“And as part of your duties, do you oversee hourly weather observations?”

“I do.”

“Could you tell the court how these observations are made?”

I had come to court with the daily weather log requested in the subpoena and explained that the disc jockey on duty would record things like temperature, wind speed and direction, and amounts of rain or snow at the start of each hour.

“And could you explain how you determine the depth of snow?”

“We take a yard stick outside and poke it in the snow at a few spots where the snow isn’t drifting and get an average of those depths.”

“And could you tell the court what your records indicate for snowfall times and snowfall amounts as of the date of…” and he named the date as La Chute.

I summarized the weather that day, trying to find a balance between “concise” and “verbose”.

“No further questions, Your Honor.”

The company owner’s lawyer tapped a pen on a yellow notepad. He had a “Gotcha!” smile on his face and stopped short of saying “Aha!”

On “Perry Mason”, it would have been the moment a matronly woman wearing a snood would jump to her feet and shout “Yes! Yes! I can’t take it anymore…I did it!” or a nightclub owner at the squalid-looking would try to slip through the back door of the courtroom, only to be intercepted by a pot-bellied security guard.

“You stick a meter in the snow to measure the depth? I had never heard the word ‘stallion’ spoken with such disdain. If we had talked in the hallway, I might have answered with something ambiguous like “Dude”.

Since I was under oath, I tried to sound judicial: “Yes, sir, that’s right.”

“And where do you usually take these readings?”

“In the parking lot.”

“That doesn’t sound very scientific.”

“It’s the method recommended by the National Weather Service,” I explained.

“No further questions, Your Honor.”

“The witness is excused,” the judge said.

Wait what? That’s it? Four minutes, including the time it took to spell my name. By Monday morning, the lawyers and I had spent more time than that complaining about the Vikings’ loss to the Bears.

Still, it was long enough to warrant adding “expert witness” to my resume.

And it’s nothing but the truth.

Dan Conradt, a permanent resident of Mower County, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.


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