chapter  9
18 Pages

Consultation to Civil and Criminal Courts

ByBarry W. Wall

Traditionally, there were signifi cant obstacles to improving the quality of forensic consultation to civil and criminal courts. Judges and attorneys were more likely to question the general evidentiary value of psychiatric expert opinions compared to other fi elds for several reasons. Th ey included distrust of psychiatrists in general, the perception that behavioral sciences conclusions were unreliable, and rulings that psychological and psychiatric matters were understandable by common knowledge and therefore did not need expert evaluation. Courts were also oft en unwilling to set limitations for qualifi cations for expert witnesses in any fi eld (Curran, McGarry, and Shah 1986). In a 1986 textbook on the developing fi elds of forensic psychiatry and forensic psychology, William Curran wrote:

In the long history of the common law’s use of expert consultation, the legal system itself-the consumer and patron of forensic science expertise-has been stubbornly unsupportive of quality standards for forensic psychiatrists … Legal impediments to attracting the best of behavioral scientists to cooperate with the law courts have long existed, and their removal has often met resistance from the bench and bar until very recent times … Until quite recent decades, conditions have not been much better on the professional side of psychiatry and psychology. The complexities and demands of interdisciplinary law-related service roles have discouraged and retarded the development of forensic training programs for

the fi eld. As a result, standards of professional quality have lagged behind other subspecialties. The busy practitioners, often without formal forensic training, have shaped and dominated the service aspects of the fi eld. Most crucial of all, perhaps, has been the lack of support for research (Curran, McGarry, and Shah 1986, 1).