New variety of shark sighted in Hawaii waters

Readers may remember my post on “Swimming with Sharks” a few months back–a set of guidelines and admonishments to clinicians working in and around the Hawaii Family Court. Well, a new variety of shark has recently been sighted in Hawaii waters. These are mainland forensic psychologists who have started coming to Hawaii to sell their expert services to litigants in child custody disputes. It is of course a perfectly legitimate forensic practice, not unusual in criminal forensic psychology, for example, where retained experts battle. In this case, however, the prey are court-appointed CEs. It signals that CEs will need to look to some new shark repellant devices before they get in the water.

These top-of-the-food-chain predators prefer slow swimming and mostly defenseless child custody evaluators; given the almost non-existent rules of evidence in the Hawaii Family Court, it looks like there will be little resistance to their incursion into a new eco-sphere. Typically, fees for these experts is 4 to 7 times the cost of the actual court-appointed custody evaluations, with air fare, lodging, and a few days in Paradise to boot! Issues regarding the admissibility of their testimony remain unarticulated, such as how is such testimony reliable and valid under even loose rules of evidence, meets basic admissibility tests (Hawaii is a mixed Daubert-Frye state), the standard of review, and whether such testimony is actually “expert” in the sense that no forensic opinions on the substantive issues is permitted if there is no examination of litigants. It remains to be seen how these new arrivals will fare in Hawaii waters but we may be seeing some of the bitter insanity that characterizes the California Family Court has finally arrived on Hawaii shores.

I will have further posts with a few opinions about the admissibility of work product review later on.


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