Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some Good News

I received word late last week that the judge in a case on which I've been working made a decision that validated the clinical/legal argument I was making about the defendant (i.e. the judge agreed with me!).

This was a contested competency hearing, and I was of the opinion that the defendant was competent to proceed. The psychologist for opposing counsel, obviously, thought otherwise.

Typically, contested competency hearings last several hours, but this one was fairly complicated and I appeared in court on four separate occasions over a period of 2.5 months. Ultimately, the judge ruled that the defendant was competent to proceed, and the rationale he gave for his ruling was similar to the reasoning I used to form my opinion.

This was a long, stressful case, and it was great to get validation from the court that I was on the right track.

NOTE: The practice of psychologists offering an opinion on the ultimate legal issue (in this case, is the defendant competent?) is controversial, and many forensic psychology experts advise that it is a dangerous practice to do so. However, in Colorado, psychologists and psychiatrists who conduct competency evaluations are required by law to offer an opinion on the competency of defendants.

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.


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