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Egregious Abuses by Expert Witnesses and Family Courts

The Seattle Times recently featured a special report about a psychological "expert witness" who destroyed countless lives in the court cases in which he was hired to serve as an expert witness. He made up bogus psychological diagnoses for many people, like labeling a conscientious, mentally-healthy mother as a "quasi-psychotic" and "grave danger to her son" who was "'probably' sexually abusing him.” He also falsely claimed that a child-molesting priest had reformed, enabling him to molest several additional children.

For a quarter century Stuart Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress.His peers elected him their national president. . .

But his formidable career was built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and lies.

All this wrong-doing made him a star in family courts in King County, Washington, where judges in divorce cases rubber-stamped his recommendations about which parent should receive custody of a child. "At conferences and in classrooms, in Washington and beyond, he taught others to do what he did. He became his profession's gatekeeper, quizzing aspirants, judging others' work, writing the national certification exam." Later, state courts sealed his disciplinary records, permitting him to continue his wrongdoing even after it was well-known to state regulators, who did nothing about it. He was finally apprehended after he was caught videotaping his own employees using the restroom for his own sexual gratification.

“The American Psychological Association . . . asked him to lecture on “The Liability and Immunity of the Expert Witness,” after he “successfully evaded civil action” by “the mother whose son had been removed” due to his “false allegations”; he employed the defense of quasi-judicial immunity, which shields judges and their clerks from civil liability even when they commit constitutional violations.

Ted Frank notes that King County is the same place where the courts made an unbelievable custody decision that left children in a household with a violent child-killer:

When family court reaches levels of self-parody: man's first wife kills his children. She pleads temporary insanity, implausibly blames Prozac for deaths, escapes criminal punishment. Man remarries, has more kids, divorces, takes up again with killer of his first children. Second ex-wife has no luck in family court expressing reluctance leaving kids with child-killer. [Alkon; AP/NYT]

Meanwhile, in the same jurisdiction, a horrifically crooked expert in the same family court jurisdiction got disciplinary records sealed,. . . If he hadn't been caught videotaping his employees using the restroom, he might still be running amuck in family court. [Seattle Times via OL]

Previously, we described how psychologists acting as expert witnesses-for-hire falsely testify in discrimination lawsuits that workers have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of mild, non-threatening workplace events, and politically-incorrect jokes. Many of the fads popular among psychologists backfire, such as diversity training, and various forms of grief counseling. Earlier, we discussed how family courts harm the economy and small businesses through arbitrary redistribution of wealth, and how family courts issue perverse rulings in divorce cases that seem to be designed to benefit lawyers rather than the public.