Marvin M. Specter, P.E., L.S., Hon.M.ASCE, whose many, varied contributions to forensic engineering enhanced the conduct of technical expert witnesses throughout the U.S. federal court system, has died. He was 91.
As a writer, lecturer and mentor, Specter led in organizing, teaching and encouraging professional engineers to conduct themselves competently and ethically in the legal system for more than 30 years. Until Specter founded the National Academy of Forensic Engineers in 1982, there was no single organization dedicated to the ethical practice of investigation, analysis and testimony by engineers. He was the first president of NAFE, a chartered affinity group of the National Society of Professional Engineers.
His ability to analyze project disputes and accidents saw him called on for matters not under his engineering control. Specter was the prime author and leader of the team drafting an amicus curiae brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael case. This brief ushered in revision and clarification regarding the use of technical expert witnesses throughout the federal court system.
Specter began his professional career with HNTB and soon worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland State Roads Commission. Later, when it appeared that surveyors and landscapers wanted to encroach on the territory of engineers, Specter stood with NSPE against their preclusive measures. Responsible for engineering decisions as a manager of project construction and design, he enjoyed a reputation as fair and practical, but firmly demanding of quality and safety.
As a civil engineer in public service, as a consultant with major engineering firms, and as an independent consultant, Specter’s extensive experience covered everything from planning, through design, to construction and eventual renovation or replacement of public works. Many of these works are still in use today in the New York metropolitan area, including major bridges and sections of the Interstate Highway System.
Specter’s writings have been published by ASCE, NSPE, NAFE and ASTM. His drafted policies have been adopted by NAFE, NSFE, and ITE, have been accepted by the Board of Ethical Review (NSPE/BER) and have deeply affected the interface between engineering and the legal community. He was a recipient of the NSPE Award, the highest honor given by that organization.
In addition to serving as NAFE president, he also held that role with the Council of Engineering & Scientific Specialty Boards, which he formed as a community of engineers that could certify members of other organizations based on rules, experience and bylaws.
Specter became an ASCE Distinguished Member in 2007, but chose to retain the Society’s previous honorific, Honorary Member.