Legal Psychology

The first role is that of expert witness. An expert witness is someone who by benefit of advanced education, extensive work experience, or both is so knowledgeable about a subject that their opinions about the issues on which they testify are considered totally necessary to deciding the case before the court (Legal 3). An expert is always prone to rendering biased testimony. Experts have pet theories, or preconceived notions of the truth based on clinical experience which they are prone to defend when questioned about them. The second role is that of legal adviser.

Psychologists acting as legal advisers provide, primarily judges, data from and summaries of psychological findings relevant to issues before the court(Legal 4). The psychologist acting as adviser functions similarly to the expert witness and is similarly prone to biased testimony. There is no way to challenge the findings and conclusions because there is no cross examination process and thus no way to determine if the material is slanted to support certain views. The third role is as writers of amicus briefs (Legal 4). These are essay like documents which provide the court with helpful information on aspects of the case.

They are intended to make it easier to decide the case. These are unsolicited documents written by supposedly disinterested parties. It is at the discretion of the court whether these documents are accepted as evidence. There is a considerable chance of bias occurring here. The fourth role is that of trial consultant. A trial consultant is a psychologist who utilizes their superior knowledge of the field to aid trial lawyers in preparing for litigation. The psychologist develops profiles of the types of jurors likely to be sympathetic to the client. These guide lawyers in the questioning process of potential jurors.

The psychologist devises stratagems for monitoring the jury throughout the trial, crafting witness testimony, and stages mock trials with juries resembling the actual jury to give attorneys advance feedback of the effectiveness of their arguments(Legal 4). Bias is the downfall here. Is the psychologist seeking the truth or a win for the client is the only important question here. 2. Describe the players (Courts, Judges, and Lawyers) of the legal system and their duties within the legal system. The court is the venue wherein the trial is heard and the various persons who perform the daily tasks of administering justice work.

The court might be thought of as the jury who decides guilt or innocence in any given issue. The jury is a group of 6-12 persons depending on whether the issue is a civil or criminal matter (Matson 9). They decide which facts presented by the attorneys were important and using this information decides guilt or innocence according to a set of instructions prepared by the judge. Judges are the referees of any trial. They decide what information can be presented to the jury as evidence both before the lawyers argue the case in front of the jury, and during the trial( Matson 8). These decisions are called motions.

They also prepare the instructions which tell the jury how certain they must be based on the facts before they can convict someone. Judges are the final authority in the courtroom. Lawyers are the persons representing each side in the trial. They explain their client’s, known as either the defendant or plaintiff, version of events to the jury. They are ultimately responsible for marshalling the witnesses, evidence and presentation of the facts in such a way that their side has the best chance of winning the case(Matson9). 3. Discuss what is meant by law is doctrinal and psychology is empirical.

The distinction is the law deals with facts that can be independently verified and examined to determine whether they support or refute the position of one or another parties involved in the litigation. The determination of support can be made with a high degree of accuracy. Hopefully one hundred percent accuracy by using a logical means that all parties agree is both fair and rigorous. Any facts that can be examined in the above manner are called quantifiable because they have been examined according to the rigorous and fair method. This method is also known as the doctrinal method.

Psychology, on the other hand, deals with facts which are not quantifiable and can not be examined rigorously. The observer, here the juror, either accepts or rejects the psychological facts based on their personal opinion as to whether these psychological facts are good evidence. The inability of the lawyer to demonstrate independently of personal belief or experience that those psychological facts are true is what makes psychology empirical.

References 1. Legal Psychology. Wikipedia. January, 8, 2009 2. Matson, J. V. (1994). Effective Expert Witnessing. CRC Pr L. L. C. pages 1-20

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