Posts tagged as:

psychiatry

Not an April Fool’s: we’ve covered the saga of Judge Cynthia Brim in two earlier posts. Chicago voters re-elected her to the bench despite troubles which eventuated in a successful defense to misdemeanor battery charges on the ground of insanity. [Chicago Tribune, auto-plays annoyingly]

{ 4 comments }

Client protection be damned: “Asking would-be lawyers standard questions about their mental health, including their history of diagnosis and treatment, could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.” [ABA Journal]

{ 5 comments }

This fairly gripping New York Times account by reporter Serge Kovaleski gives the backstory of the horrendous Navy Yard massacre — a contract employee with a security clearance had been displaying increasingly florid symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, yet was not taken off his job — but is missing one angle I was curious about:

On Aug. 9, the director of human resources for the Experts spoke to Mr. Alexis’ mother, who told the director of his previous paranoid behavior, the person with knowledge of the investigation said. His mother told the director that Mr. Alexis’ paranoia tended to subside with time, but that “he likely needed to see a therapist.”

That same day, the director convened a meeting of “senior-level personnel” at the Experts who concluded that he could be sent back to work. The Hewlett-Packard investigation found that the Experts did not attempt to get Mr. Alexis to seek mental health care, a finding that the Experts has not disputed.

…In an e-mail message, the Experts said that a Hewlett-Packard manager in Newport said she was “comfortable” having Mr. Alexis come back to work after he reported hearing voices.

Hewlett-Packard said its manager in Newport was a low-level employee who was not given full details by the Experts about Mr. Alexis’ problems. The company said it has placed that manager on administrative leave.

The missing angle is: what if any role was played by the legal constraints on the various entities that directly or indirectly employed Mr. Alexis? Severe mental illness is a protected condition under the ADA, and employers may not be free to take workers off their duties unless and until they can assemble evidence that would stand up in court documenting a “direct threat,” “undue hardship” or other adequate reason for removal; the law places limits on the employer’s right to demand medical exams to evaluate the exact contours of disability; and privacy rules limit sharing of medically relevant information between different entities, as we saw in the Seung-Hui Cho/Virginia Tech case. All these rules apply to ordinary larger private businesses, but some come in especially stringent form when applied to federal contractors.

Did any of these legal doctrines influence the course of decision-making by which Mr. Alexis received oddly hands-off treatment even as his mental state spun out of control? One hopes a future NYT article will return to take a look at those questions.

{ 6 comments }

Starting in the 1960s a wave of foundation-backed lawsuits (Wyatt v. Stickney, etc.) resulted in the closure or drastic shrinkage of most larger state mental health facilities, with the hope that patients would benefit instead from more humane and decentralized “community-based care.” I have decidedly mixed feelings about the results of that episode: the old system inflicted abuses and deprivation of freedom that cried out for oversight and reform, but the new system has handed a great deal of power to unaccountable litigators managing consent decrees in pursuit of their own, sometimes quite debatable, view of clients’ and society’s best interest. Among the roads not taken: strengthening the inspectorate concept, which places oversight authority in a class of appointees intended to be independent of the care institutions but answerable to judges, elected officials, or both. I’m quoted at length on these issues in Neil Maghami’s new Capital Research Center profile of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, a key funder of the suits.

{ 1 comment }

Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on June 6, 2013

  • New ACA regulations from the feds restrict employer wellness programs [Jon Hyman; Leslie Francis, Bill of Health]
  • Frequent-flyer defense medical examiner comes to grief in New York [Eric Turkewitz]
  • Fecal transplants (that’s not a misprint) appear to hold out hope of saving a lot of lives, except for the mountain of FDA paperwork blocking them [Amar Toor/The Verge, Maggie Koerth-Baker] Enter the grey market [Beth Skwarecki]
  • Why can’t the FDA catch up with Europe on sunscreens? [Alex Tabarrok]
  • “The banning of catastrophic-only plans infuriates me the most…. the only plans that are actually financially sensible for a healthy individual to purchase.” [MargRev comments section]
  • More on the recent study of malpractice suits by a group of Johns Hopkins researchers [Christopher Robinette]
  • For all his public health pretensions, Michael Bloomberg “has no idea what he’s talking about” on medical marijuana [Jacob Sullum]
  • Another look at asylums? [James Panero, City Journal]
  • Feds’ war on Google pharma ads reflects no credit on D.C. [Brian Doherty]

{ 2 comments }

Justin Caldwell Somers, in jail for not paying a jaywalking fine, brutally murdered his sleeping cellmate by stomping him to death on the cement floor, but was found not criminally responsible because he had been acting under the influence of delusions and hallucinations. Now he is suing various personnel of the remand center for not preventing the incident, in part by not heeding the recommendation of a nurse and psychiatrist that he be housed alone: since the murder Somers “has experienced severe mental anguish and mental distress as a result of his role in causing the death of Mr. Stewart, as well as a result of the conditions of his incarceration.” [Edmonton Journal]

{ 1 comment }

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on April 12, 2013

  • Appalling: pursuing the logic of equality arguments, prominent constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky has proposed abolishing private/religious/home K-12 schooling [Eugene Volokh, Rick Garnett, Marc DeGirolami]
  • How wrong is the NRA on school security? So wrong that even Marian Wright Edelman makes more sense [Gene Healy]
  • Schools, marriage, and self-replicating elites: Ross Douthat tells some secrets of the NYT-reading class [NYT]
  • Critics flay Connecticut bill to require school mental health checkups of children [Raising Hale]
  • “How the Anti-Bully Movement is Hurting Kids: An Interview with Bully Nation’s Susan Porter” [Tracy Oppenheimer, Reason]
  • Montgomery County, Maryland pols concerned some public schools might become unfairly good [DC Examiner] Also in Maryland, there’s a push to emulate a truly bad New Jersey idea by shifting the burden of proof onto schools in special education disputes [WaPo]
  • Telephone frustration in New Haven: “How public schools drive us away…” [Mark Oppenheimer]

{ 3 comments }

From Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy, who was co-counsel in the landmark D.C. v. Heller case. [National Law Journal] More: Trevor Burrus, The Blaze. And the New York Times takes up the topic of guns and suicide, but with some pretty big omissions [Tom Maguire, Ira Stoll/SmarterTimes]

Further: “Senate Judiciary Committee Hears from Cato on Gun Policy” [Ilya Shapiro, citing contributions by David Kopel, Randy Barnett, etc.] And while Bing’s real-time reaction tracker isn’t a scientific voter survey (though the sample size is large, and there’s a partisan breakdown) it seems I was not alone in being put off by President Obama’s demagogic “they deserve a vote” State of the Union wind-up on gun control. [Mediaite]

At Cook County Judge Cynthia Brim’s trial this week, “she was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery because she was ‘legally insane’ at the time.” Cook County voters re-elected Brim in November despite reports of her troubles [South Bend Tribune/Chicago Tribune, earlier]

{ 4 comments }

Guns roundup

by Walter Olson on February 5, 2013

{ 1 comment }

Not only can she, but it seems she does. [Austin American-Statesman]

{ 5 comments }

August 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 15, 2012

{ 1 comment }

Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on July 19, 2012

  • Dixon v. Ford Motor Company: “The Best Causation Opinion of 2012″ [David Oliver] “Any exposure” causation: “Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivers significant asbestos ruling” [Point of Law]
  • Maryland high court may consider pro-plaintiff shift from contributory negligence to comparative fault [Sean Wajert]
  • In last-minute ploy, Albany lawmakers extend time limits for suing local governments [Torch via PoL, Times-Union]
  • Mental diagnoses: what to do when courtroom experts armed with DSM-5 shoot from the hip [Jim Dedman, Abnormal Use]
  • California appeals court, legislature decline to go along with trial lawyers’ crusade against Concepcion and class arbitration waivers [WLF, CL&P]
  • Critics challenge legality of Louisiana AG’s use of contingency lawyers [Melissa Landry, Hayride]
  • To curb client solicitation, NJ mulls withholding crash reports from noninterested parties for 90 days [NJLRA]

{ 1 comment }

Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on May 21, 2012

  • Government’s hospital care guidelines may be fueling dangerous overuse of antibiotics [White Coat] FDA says fewer drugs are in shortage [Reuters, earlier here, etc.]
  • “Post-tort-reform Texas doctor supply” [Ted Frank/PoL and commenters] “Change in Procedures Lets Medical Malpractice [Insurance] Industry Thrive” [PC 360]
  • Forcing companies to make politicized disclosures to customers implicates First Amendment [Hans Bader on HHS "must credit ObamaCare" reg]
  • Iqbal and Twombly SCOTUS decisions on pleading have helped protect pharmaceutical defendants from flimsily based suits [James Beck, who has changed law firms to Reed Smith]
  • How accurate is hospital data coding? Ask thousands of pregnant British men [Nigel Hawkes via Flowing Data]
  • Class-action-fed boom in Medicaid dentistry + “let’s put docs in schools” idea = scope for horrific abuse, no matter how it’s financed [Bloomberg via Jesse Walker]
  • Suits blaming obstetricians for cerebral palsy rack up $78 million win in Philadelphia, $74 million in California [Legal Intelligencer, Cal Coast News]
  • Ninth Circuit: on reflection, let’s not seize control of VA mental health programs [AP, earlier here, etc.]

Checking out a published report, Erik Magraken contacted former New Mexico state senator Duncan Scott and found that it was true, the lawmaker had indeed introduced a legislative amendment in 1995 providing that:

When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong…

The amendment — intended satirically, one should hasten to add –”passed with a unanimous Senate vote” but was removed from its bill before consideration by the state house and never became law. (& Coyote, Above the Law)

{ 8 comments }


My new podcast at Cato discusses the American Psychiatric Association’s ongoing project of redefining and often loosening the criteria for diagnosing mental illness, and some of its legal implications in fields like disability law (earlier).

{ 2 comments }

As part of its revision of its influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the American Psychiatric Association is proposing to lower diagnostic thresholds for some conditions and recognize other entirely new (and sometimes controversial) disorders. That will have implications for the coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws, as I explain in a new post at Cato at Liberty. (& Alkon, Alex Adrianson/InsiderOnline)

{ 9 comments }

November 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 17, 2011

  • Executive with “Autism Speaks” group quits to found group more aligned with scientific opinion on cause of condition [SciAm]
  • Here comes the ban-cigarettes-entirely crusade [Peter Singer on forthcoming Robert Proctor "Golden Holocaust"] “Parents try to blame Four Loko for son getting shot” [Elie Mystal, Above the Law] Still-relevant cartoon from ’30s on Federal War on Drugs (or Booze, take your pick) [Perry]
  • Controversy over definition of medical disorders in DSM-V has implications for workplace law including ADA, FMLA [Labor Related, petition]
  • “Not Safe to Display an American Flag in an American High School” [Volokh]
  • “Criminal Defense Lawyer Charged in Alleged $1.5M Fraud On Clients Obtained Under False Pretenses” [ABA Journal, Greenfield; Texas]
  • Father of Notre Dame student who died says family never considered suing [Chicago Tribune]
  • “The Ignominious End Of The Digitek Mass Tort” [Beck]

{ 2 comments }