Dressing psychologists as wizards in court

From overlawyered.com we hear that in 1995, New Mexico state senator Duncan Scott introduced a legislative ammendment 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, which was intended satirically, was passed unanimously but removed removed from the bill before it became law.

Link: Original post at Overlawyered
Thanks Pamela for the tip!


  1. Posted February 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff. makes me think of the imagery on the covers of Richard Bandler books “Frogs into Princes” “Trance-Formations” and “The Structure of Magic”, all of which are essentially revealing the manipulative power of language.

  2. Posted February 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    When I first encountered Richard Bandler, with his wife Leslie and his partner John Grinder at a one week pow-wow in California, he looked and behaved like a prince – lotsa magic.
    Years later at a presentation in Toronto – like Dorian Grey’s painting – the prince was no more, in his place a depressing apparition.
    What happened to the magic???

  3. kathy lowen
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    The whole notion of psychology as a “science” (more than an “art”) is ridiculous. And anyone with any experience in the field, knows how well “psycho-babble” can be used and abused to mask the therapists own feelings. Although neurobiology seems to be slowly shaping up to take its place, as a much more objective and repeatable diagnostic tool.

    • Scott Freng
      Posted February 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink


      Clearly, you have never worked with or have any experience with cognitive or social psychologists. Never a good idea to generalize to a whole field from experiences with a few “therapists”.

  4. HeHe
    Posted February 5, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Child-custody expert cleared after posting lewd photos – latimes.com

  5. Jim
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    There was a great NPR episode on This American Life where they told of how a lawyer tried to use a chicken to prove how stupid a psychologist or psychiatrist was. The “expert” asserted the defendant was competent because he could play a game of tick-tac toe. The lawyer found a carnival chicken that could play tic-tac toe and brought it into the courtroom but was sadly dismissed before impressing the jury.

  6. Madeline
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    Kathy, if you know of any way to make matters of the mind less subjective, I would love to know. I’ve got major depression, and the fact that the only way to gauge my medication’s effectiveness is to look at my thoughts and behaviors drives me nuts, but, at the moment, it’s the only way available. Yes, some of it is psycho-babble, but most psychologists and psychiatrists are doing the best they can with the tools they have. Yes, someday neuroscience may provide harder answers, but, until then, give psychology some respect.

  7. Mitch
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Much of Medicine, at least initially also relies on educated guesses as well–based on symptoms that tend to fit for a massive number of potential diagnoses. Psychology has very few biometric tests that can be performed, and most never are, nor do many health plans want to pay for such things. A lot of people on medications that should have blood serums taken, or metabolites checked on occasion, or liver functioning tested, aren’t being done by MD’s. I would agree that human beings are so amazingly complex, that given that every human brain basically is unique–even the efforts at “hard science” often fall short–or merely become a snapshot of people’s brains that change to fit the environment/behaviors etc.

    I do think that too many Psychologists and most especially Psychiatrists that testify in court, are paid to be overly confident and sell the courtroom, for evaluations that again tend to be snapshots of people. I’ve seen Psychiatrists give contradictory testimony about clients, based purely on 20minute consults with people, and no psychometric testing. Psychologists at least use Psychometrics as part of the assessment process, not merely interviews. I think it is wizadry, for some to predict that someone will not commit a crime again in the future–that I find to be incredibly arrogant, if not ignorant. Data is pretty clear, that sadly, Prisons don’t rehab hardly anyone, and that if people have a pattern of disturbing behavior, they often go back to it at some point in the future, or at the very least should be consider high risk to do so.

    • HeHe
      Posted February 11, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I’ve been attacked in various ways by multiple psychiatrists from Harvard. One with Asperger’s who does not see mind space battered me relentlessly for years and escalated to stalking me at my apartment calling me incompetent, psychotic and unethical. This is after he nearly killed 7 people in a fire and before killed a disabled female patient in an unethical research study.

  8. Uncle Buck
    Posted February 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Psychology and psychiatry is just plain crap.
    It is a shame that any one or any court would put faith in what psychologists and psychiatriats say.
    I can’t believe people actually believe these idiots.

  9. Posted February 15, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Hey Vaughan,
    Looks like you stirred up some people. ;-} For those who are interested, I just dug up some more background on this wizard amendment, and posted it at my blog: http://bit.ly/wizardlaw.

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26,836 other followers