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Although in the past courts only permitted genetic evidence in paternity suits to prove that an accused man was not the father, with the advent of new genetic tests, which easily can exclude ninety to nitey-five percent of the population in most cases, the supreme courts of Massachusetts, Oregon, and Utah have held that various genetic tests may be used to prove paternity. While a positive move, the admissibility of genetic proof of paternity raises serious questions as to the manner in which this evidence should be presented in court. In the interests of efficiency, some jurisdictions seem to dispense with the requirement of having an expert appear in order to establish the chain of custody, to explain the scientific procedures, and to interpret the laboratory findings. When an expert does testify, the interpretations of the laboratory results may be abstruse or even misleading. While a great many courts admit such evidence uncritically, the newer decisions recognize many of the problems associated with the presentation and interpretation of inclusionary test results. This article analyzes the opinion of the Oregon Supreme Court in Plemel v. Walter and concludes that its analysis is preeminent among this newer line of cases and is an instructive guide for genetic evidence in paternity suits.


This article was originally published at 24 Willamette L. Rev. 867.