Psychology Expert Witness Testimony Excluded in Juvenile Center Litigation

Summary: Psychology Expert Witness testimony allowed as the court opined that the expert’s opinions about the conditions in the mental health facility were not relevant.

Facts:  This case (Doe v. Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission – Virginia Western District Court – December 13th, 2018) involves detainees who are being held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center.  The plaintiffs allege that they are subjected to unconstitutional conditions and have consequently engaged in self-harm and suffered abuse.  The plaintiffs bring this claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive use of force, a failure to provide adequate mental health services, and discrimination on the basis of race and national origin.    The plaintiff has hired Dr. Andrea Weisman (Psychology Expert Witness) to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Dr. Weisman is a clinical psychologist who has experience evaluating juveniles who have been in confinement.  Dr. Weisman was hired to create a report from her review of the declarations of six UACs.  Weisnman relied on her knowledge of best practices in the field of juvenile justice and national standards of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.  In her report, Dr. Weisman concluded that the mental health services provided at the center far below nationally accepted standards and that the use of force, restraints, and isolation are very high.  She continues by stating that the center continues to violate their own policies and practices by putting youth in isolation for extended periods of time.

The defendant argues that Dr. Weisman’s expert testimony should be excluded because 1) They are based on aspirational standards; 2) she did not properly apply those standards in her report; 3) her opinions are not based on sufficient or accurate facts; and 4) her opinions are beyond her area of expertise.

The court opines that Dr. Weisman’s testimony should be excluded for two reasons.  First, her opinions regarding the mental health treatment at the center are not relevant because the court is granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the plaintiff’s claim of adequate mental health.  Also, Dr. Wiesman’s opinions and conclusions regarding use of force, restraints, and isolation will be excluded because they are analyzed under standards that are not applicable to the defendant.  The court continues by stating that the plaintiffs have not explained to the court how Dr. Weisman’s opinions are relevant to determine the facts at issue.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Andrea Weisman is granted.