When a judge orders someone to undergo a psychological evaluation, you can safely assume that the matter at hand is not a trivial one. The judge finds the matter serious enough to take a step back, dig deeper, and learn more about a person or situation before making a final decision. With so much riding on the line, it is important that the psychologist who is hired to complete the evaluation not only knows what they are doing, but is also on top of their game. There is no room for carelessness, bias opinions, “hired guns”, or half-hazard, rushed work. It isn’t fair to the person being evaluated, or the judge who has placed their trust in the so called “expert”. Although this seems straight forward, far too often lives are negatively affected by the outcome of poorly executed psychological evaluations, or bias, incomplete psychological reports and expert witness testimony. Fortunately, the courts are not naïve to this issue and have allowed lawyers to present their concerns through the use of rebuttal witnesses. In this situation, a second psychologist is hired to critique all aspects of the initial psychologist’s work and then presents their findings to the client’s attorney, and possibly to the judge and/or jury through courtroom testimony. If the rebuttal witness finds significant errors in technique or bias interpretations, the decision maker is now given the opportunity to consider this new information and act accordingly, rather than base their judgment off of what some would call “junk science”.
Although attorneys do receive a level of training in the mental health field, without years of training in psychological testing and report writing service, it is very difficult to spot inaccuracies or a poorly formed conclusion in what seems to be a well written psychological report. Additionally, due to the protected nature of the information found in psychological tests, if an attorney wishes to obtain the “raw data” in a psychologist’s file, they must have the file subpoenaed directly to another psychologist or mental health professional trained to interpret the information. Given these factors, if an attorney’s client is ordered to receive a psychological evaluation and the result comes back unfavorable, it should be almost automatic for the attorney to then hire a second forensic psychologist to do a “Work Product Review”, to ensure that their client was in fact given a fair psychological evaluation by a true expert.
Dr. Kristin Tolbert, a licensed forensic psychologist and owner of the Psychological Center for Expert Evaluations, Inc., is aware of the weight that psychological testimony can hold in the courtroom and is dedicated to helping attorneys identify bias, inaccurate, or poorly executed psychological evaluations, before they negatively affect your case.
If you are an attorney with a client that may benefit from a second opinion, please call us today at (561) 429-2140 to schedule a complimentary consultation. Our office is conveniently located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and we are happy to provide our expertise throughout Palm Beach County, Martin County, Saint Lucie County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and all surrounding areas.