Authorship: Jennifer Cox, Lauren Meaux, Lauren Kois, Cassandra Jensen
Abstract: Despite ample best practice recommendations for competency to proceed (CTP) evaluations, direct observation of defendant-attorney interactions is an unstudied methodological technique for assessing defendants’ abilities to assist and consult with their attorneys. This study surveyed 57 forensic evaluators regarding their history and opinions of direct observation as a component of CTP evaluations. Overall, results indicated the majority of forensic evaluators had engaged in direct observation on at least one occasion, with some practicing this approach in up to 85% of their evaluations. A minority endorsed or expressed concerns regarding this practice (e.g., third-party effects, violations of attorney-client privilege). Results of this study provide a preliminary indication of how evaluators perceive the potential utility and hazards of direct observation. In response, we offer a framework for approaching direct observation and highlight the need for additional research examining the impact of this methodological technique for CTP evaluations.