American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 51, Issue 1 (2015)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


T he use of psychological and psychiatric evaluations for the courts has grown considerably in the last three decades.1 For the purposes of this article, we will refer to such an evaluation as a forensic mental-health assessment (FMHA). There are two important components to the definition of FMHA. First, such activity involves evaluations conducted in the context of criminal or civil proceedings.2 Second, it includes certain kinds of tasks—such as reconstructing a past mental state and linking it with the functional-legal capacities specified in a given legal test (such as insanity at the time of the offense) or evaluating a current mental state and appraising the extent to which it affects such functional legal capacities (such as those described in competence-to-stand trial evaluations).3

We begin by discussing FMHA in greater detail. This discussion includes broad foundational principles applicable to all such evaluations, as well as a brief description of 17 commonly evaluated types of FMHA. In this context, we then turn to the use of third-party information, or TPI (collateral interviews, records, and other documents or digital evidence), in FMHA. This discussion will address the importance, the value and limitations, and the current legal and professional status of TPI in forensic assessment.