Position Statement -2017
Access to Forensic Mental Health Evaluations
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) and our 19 chapters across the state strongly supports S.6579 (Avella) introduced at the request of the Office of Court Administration. This bill is identical to the proposed bill contained in the January 2017 Report of the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee (“MPARC”). WBASNY’s memo in opposition to A.1533 (Weinstein) /S.6300 (Avella) referenced support for MPARC’s proposal. Below is a restatement of this support.
We strongly support the proposal contained in the January 2017 Report of the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee (“MPARC”), chaired by the Hon. Jeffrey S. Sunshine. MPARC’s proposal permits attorneys and experts retained to assist attorneys and self-represented parties to have a copy of the forensic report and the forensic examiner’s entire file, without having to make a demand pursuant to CPLR 3120. Represented parties can read and take notes about the report in their attorney’s office; self-represented litigants may read and take notes about the report in the courthouse.
MPARC’s proposal provides that willful failure to comply with a court order conditioning or limiting access to the forensic report shall be contempt of court. However, because the wrongful dissemination of the report may occur well after the case is concluded, the proposal provides that the court shall retain jurisdiction for purposes of an application for contempt. While we agree with MPARC that contempt is not a sufficient remedy for dissemination of the report, we also agree that these additional safeguards are necessary and appropriate.
MPARC’s proposal provides that the written forensic report may substitute for direct testimony at trial, pursuant to 22 NYCRR § 202.16(g) (2).
For the foregoing reasons, WBASNY supports this legislation.