Law and Psychiatry Fellowship Program

Law and Psychiatry Rotation

Each year, fellows and faculty members in the Yale Law & Psychiatry Division complete over 100 forensic evaluations in various areas of criminal and civil law, including:

  • Criminal responsibility
  • Pre-sentence reports
  • Custody
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Civil commitment
  • Independent medical evaluations of disability
  • Immigration and asylum evaluations
  • Fitness for duty
  • Forced medication
  • Medical malpractice
  • Psychic harm
  • Risk assessment and management

All fellows are assigned to the Law and Psychiatry rotation on a part-time basis for 12 months. Over the course of the year, each fellow typically completes 10-15 forensic evaluations, most of which require reports and/or testimony.

New Haven Office of Court Evaluations

The New Haven Office of Court Evaluations (NHOCE) has responsibility for performing all competence to stand trial evaluations in the south-central part of Connecticut, amounting to approximately 200 evaluations per year. All fellows are assigned to this rotation on a part-time basis for 12 months. Fellows perform evaluations individually and as part of a forensic team consisting of a physician, psychologist, and social worker. Testimony is routinely required; fellows can expect to testify about competency to stand trial evaluations between 10 and 20 times over the course of the year.

VA Connecticut Health Care System

The VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS) in West Haven is a 200-bed tertiary care hospital affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine. VACHS offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services, and in recent years has developed a number of innovative treatment programs for justice-involved veterans. Two fellows each spend two days per week attached to the VA Connecticut. There they learn how to undertake:

  • Evaluations for court diversion of defendants presenting to the Veterans Justice Outreach program from state and federal courts;
  • Evaluations of veterans with mental health needs who are being released to the community from prison;
  • Evaluations of cases referred to the forensic psychiatric consult service based at the VA hospital in West Haven, Connecticut; and
  • Behavioral risk management consultation to the VA hospital.

Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital

The Whiting Forensic Division consists of maximum-security and enhanced-security treatment units at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown (Connecticut’s only state psychiatric hospital). Patients are sent to Whiting from:

  • Other psychiatric hospitals if they are too dangerous to be managed;
  • Department of Correction facilities if their treatment needs exceed the capacity of prison mental health services;
  • Criminal courts after an insanity acquittal; and
  • Criminal courts for restoration to competence.

Department of Children and Families (DCF)

The child-track fellow spends approximately one day per week with DCF over the course of the year, evaluating and treating patients at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS, a juvenile justice facility) and the Albert J. Solnit Center (an inpatient child psychiatry facility). The patients in both settings are mainly adolescents, usually from ages 12 to 16, with significant psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia, mood disorders, conduct disorders, learning disorders, paraphilias, and substance abuse. The forensic fellow sees two patients at CJTS for psychotherapy over the course of the year. In addition, he or she may be called to the Solnit Center to perform risk assessments or consult about treatment planning in high-risk cases.

Department of Correction

Under the supervision of Dr. Robert Berger, all fellows spend one day per week from July to September of the fellowship year in the CT Department of Correction. Fellows tour different types of correctional facilities (high and low security, jails, prisons, male and female, specialized mental health facilities) in order to appreciate the breadth and depth of mental health services provided to inmates. In addition, the trainees engage in didactic sessions with Dr. Berger and other DOC psychiatrists.

Yale Law School

Fellows spend one-half day per year attending classes and serving as a psychiatric consultant in a Yale Law School clinic. Over the course of the year, each fellow will participate in two clinics, switching in the fall and spring semesters.

  • Immigration Legal Services: The Immigration Legal Services clinic represents immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. Its clients are refugees from more than twenty different countries who fear that they will be persecuted on the basis of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a social group if they return to their countries of nationality. The clinic assists clients with the preparation of their applications for asylum, prepares clients for interviews with asylum officers, and presents their cases before Immigration Court. Forensic psychiatry fellows serve as consultants to the law school and sometimes perform psychiatric evaluations of the clinic’s clients.
  • Veterans Legal Services: In this clinic, established in 2010, students represent Connecticut veterans in litigation before administrative agencies and courts regarding VA benefits, discharge upgrade, immigration, and pardon matters. Forensic fellows serve as psychiatric consultants to the law students and faculty supervisors.
  • Criminal Justice Clinic: The Criminal Justice Clinic defends indigent clients accused of misdemeanor and felony offenses in New Haven. The clinic also handles a wide variety of sentencing cases, including federal clemency petitions. Forensic psychiatry fellows serve as consultants to the law students and faculty supervisor in the clinic.

Attorneys' Offices

Each fellow is assigned as a psychiatric consultant in a legal office for one-half day per week over the course of the year. Fellows help attorneys think through psychiatric aspects of their cases, review other experts’ reports, and observe trials. The placements include:

State Attorney's Office – New Haven Judicial District
Michael Dearington, JD, State’s Attorney
The New Haven State’s Attorney’s office is located in the New Haven courthouse, approximately 1 mile from Connecticut Mental Health Center. Attorney Dearington is the primary supervisor, but fellows may also work with the other 28 attorneys who staff the office. Fellows assigned to this placement typically consult in cases involving the insanity defense, competency to stand trial, dangerousness, or pre-sentencing mitigation.

State Attorney's Office – Ansonia/Milford Judicial District
Kevin Lawlor, JD, State’s Attorney
The Milford State’s Attorney’s office is located in the Ansonia/Milford Superior Court building, approximately 10 miles from Connecticut Mental Health Center. Fellows work with a group of 8 attorneys, including the supervisor, Kevin Lawlor. Consultation cases typically involve the insanity defense, competency to stand trial, dangerousness, or pre-sentencing mitigation.

Federal Public Defender's Office – New Haven
Kelly Barrett, JD, Assistant Federal Public Defender
The Federal Public Defender's Office is located approximately 1 mile from Connecticut Mental Health Center. The experience is similar to the state’s attorney placements, but fellows at this site will also learn the unique aspects of federal courts, including their sentencing guidelines. Attorney Barrett is the primary site supervisor, though fellows also work with other attorneys in the office.

Superior Court – Juvenile Matters at New Haven
Vincent Duva, JD, Supervising Juvenile Prosecutor
The New Haven Superior Court for Juvenile Matters is located approximately 1 mile from Connecticut Mental Health Center. The child-track fellow is assigned to this placement, serving as a psychiatric consultant for three prosecuting attorneys on issues relating to families with special needs, neglect, pre-adjudication issues, competency, dangerousness, and other delinquency situations. The primary faculty member is Cathleen Edwards, Supervising Juvenile Prosecutor.