Timothy M. Tippins (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)
Justice Potter Stewart famously quipped that although he could not define pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Jacobellis v. Ohio, 84 S.Ct. 1676, 1683 (1964). Bias presents the opposite problem. It can be readily defined but you do not necessarily know it when you see it. Given that custody evaluators are as susceptible to bias as anyone else and because bias can destroy the reliability of their conclusions, it is imperative that lawyers and judges be able to recognize its telltale signs. While “there is no blood test for evaluator bias,” (J.P. Wittmann, “Evaluating Evaluations: An Attorneys Handbook for Analyzing Child Custody Reports” (MatLaw Systems, 2013, p. 160)), it can be inferred from the evaluator’s methods and behaviors. This article will delineate some key indicators that can help legal professionals spot bias in forensic assessments.
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