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Monday, June 27, 2011

Family Court Evaluator Spied on Employees with Hidden Bathroom Camera

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 4:40 PM

click to enlarge courtgavel1_thumb_200x200.jpg

We've written before about growing concerns over the competence, ethics, and eccentricities of psychological experts tasked with making decisions in California's family courts. These experts make enormously consequential recommendations to judges in disputed child-custody cases, but some question whether the decisions they make are always based on sound methods.

Over the weekend, the Seattle Times published an excellent account of the failings of one such professional: Stuart Greenberg, a forensic psychologist who frequently appeared in criminal trials and child-custody hearings to offer his views. As the Times reports, Greenberg, despite his stature in Washington state courts, had been disciplined years ago for being "incompetent and unethical" by state regulators. He was ultimately arrested for placing a hidden camera in his office bathroom so he could spy on employees for sexual stimulation.

He committed suicide in 2007 after his arrest.

As the Times puts it:

Greenberg had proved such a toxic force -- a poison coursing through the state's court system -- that it took more than three years for lawyers and judges to sift through his victims and account for the damage done.

For a quarter century Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress.

The paper details two cases where Greenberg, testifying in family court, led to children being improperly removed from their mothers.

The story will sound familiar to anyone who has studied problems in state family courts. In a March cover story, SF Weekly described how Menlo Park psychologist Leslie Packer called a mother's fears that her daughter was being molested by her ex-husband "paranoid." The daughter was placed in the full custody of the father, who was later convicted of sexually abusing her.

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