Immigration Judges’ Perceptions of Telephonic and In-Person Forensic Mental Health Evaluations

Aliza S. Green, Samuel G. Ruchman, Beselot Birhanu, Stephanie Wu, Craig L. Katz, Elizabeth K. Singer, Kim A. Baranowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Clinicians affiliated with medical human rights programs throughout the United States perform forensic evaluations of asylum seekers. Much of the best practice literature reflects the perspectives of clinicians and attorneys, rather than the viewpoints of immigration judges who incorporate forensic reports into their decision-making. The purpose of this study was to assess former immigration judges’ perspectives on forensic mental health evaluations of asylum seekers. We examined the factors that immigration judges use to assess the affidavits resulting from mental health evaluations and explored their attitudes toward telehealth evaluations. We conducted semistructured interviews in April and May 2020 with nine former judges and systematically analyzed them using consensual qualitative research methodology. Our findings were grouped in five domains: general preferences for affidavits; roles of affidavits in current legal climate; appraisal and comparison of sample affidavits; attitudes toward telephonic evaluations; and recommendations for telephonic evaluations. Forensic evaluators should consider the practice recommendations of judges, both for telephonic and in-person evaluations, which can bolster the usefulness of their evaluations in the adjudication process. To our knowledge, this is the first published study to incorporate immigration judges’ perceptions of forensic mental health evaluations, and the first to assess judges’ attitudes toward telephonic evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-251
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • expert witness
  • forensic reports
  • human rights
  • research


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