This course offers a broad introduction to the American legal tradition, including the structure and function of the courts, the legal profession, legal education, and the politics of judicial selection. As an introduction to what it means to "think like a lawyer" in the United States, students learn how to write parts of a predictive legal memorandum of the type that first-year law students learn how to write, in which they analyze a legal issue of concern to hypothetical clients by applying the reasoning and conclusions in selected judicial opinions to the facts of the clients' case.
Forensic Psychologist and Expert Witness with extensive court experience in Civil, Criminal and Family Court cases. Currently a forensic psychologist on staff at Rutgers University Biomedical Health service, specializing in criminal behavior and risk assessment as well as a forensic psychologist consultant for the Rockland County (NY) court evaluation service, where he has performed hundreds of child custody, as well as criminal competency and child abuse/neglect evaluations. In Civil cases, Dr. Heller is retained by both plaintiff and defense counsel to assess plaintiffs for emotional and mental injury. He takes an unbiased, ethical approach to assessments and is not "a hired gun." He is an expert in objective evaluations that assess the probability the plaintiff is suffering PTSD, other emotional injuries or if there is exaggeration of symptoms based upon psychological testing and other data. He has expertise in cases that involve group home/residential schools, provider negligence and assaults. In criminal cases, Dr. Heller is experienced in providing successful rebuttal testimony explaining the scientific issues related to the problems of validity, reliability and usefulness of "Syndrome evidence" such as "Child Sexual Abuse accommodation Syndrome" and "Rape trauma syndrome." He testifies in child sexual abuse cases and explains research related to false allegations, recantations, memory, suggestibility, child testimony, interview protocols and "Believed-In Imaginings" in children and adults. He has expertise in domestic violence and has assessed women who have been victims of intimate partner violence and "Battered Women Syndrome" that contributed to homicides, assaults and other felonies by the victims of abuse. He is a fully vetted and approved forensic psychologist for the . Office of the Public Defender as well as other Public Defender offices. (Federal Public Defender, Legal Aid in Manhattan, Bronx, Kings and the NYC assigned counsel program). He often travels throughout the US as a forensic consultant in important court cases including military Court Martials, death row assessment, sexual abuse, assault and multiple homicides. He is well known and respected among his colleagues as a clinician and as a forensic psychologist/expert witness.
The most interesting case I have had so far is one I am currently working on. I was asked to do a fitness evaluation for a youth whose charge petition includes nearly 15 felony counts. All of the alleged violations took place during a one-day crime spree. The youth denies wrongdoing. What makes this case unusual is the heinous nature of the crime in the absence of ANY predisposing, precipitating, or perpetuating factors to explain the situation. In fact, there are only protective factors (and several of them) – attributes and conditions – that would eliminate the risk of the youth being criminal. Inasmuch as this individual maintains that the charges are mistaken or wrong and my account requires more than the standard assessment, I am very puzzled and uncertain about how to address the eligibility criteria for fitness in this case.