Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Court Orders Angel Hernandez to Undergo Psych Exam

Angel Hernandez's lawsuit against MLB took another step forward as the New York Southern District Court ordered the veteran umpire to undergo a psychiatric examination, but it's not what you think.

As part of an emotional distress claim, the judge, in accordance with federal regulations regarding the adjudication of cases involving emotional distress claims, has ordered Hernandez submit to an examination period of up to 8 hours with MLB's examining psychiatrist, Dr. Stuart B. Kleinman, which was requested by MLB in its defense of the suit. The Court also ordered Hernandez make himself available for up to four additional hours of questioning so that he may provide "new evidence" to support his claims of racially-motivated discrimination. As we'll describe later, this is a rather rudimentary procedure for such civil litigation.

Hernandez is alleging discrimination at BOC.
In addition to quantifying his emotional distress claim at a price point of $9 million, Hernandez alleges that recently discovered information gleaned from the depositions of MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Peter Woodfork, and Commissioner Rob Manfred support the veteran umpire's claims of discrimination and includes, amongst others, that crew chief and post-season selection practices are "based largely on subjective criteria" outside of the objective umpire evaluation documents and statistics that purportedly indicate Hernandez's status as an official worthy of Crew Chief and World Series status. Hernandez's team wants to drill down into what this "subjective criteria" may encompass and believes this subjectivity encompasses aspects that are discriminatory and illegal in nature.

Wrote Hernandez's attorney, "The Practices have a disparate impact on minority Major League Umpires, including Plaintiff."

Note: The psychiatric evaluation, assessment, screening, or exam is a somewhat standard legal maneuver with claims for emotional distress. In order for a plaintiff to prove such a claim, a proof of psychological damage is generally needed, and it is accepted convention for the defendant to examine the plaintiff in this fashion through a psychiatrist or psychologist trained for this legal purpose.

The fed book allows psych exams in this case.
Gil's Call: Despite Physical and Mental Examinations' well-established existence in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (another way of saying this is a tool that is in the law's 'rulebook'), the legal particulars of this routine yet unique discovery tool will be lost amongst mainstream baseball that likely will get caught up in the "Angel Hernandez Forced to Sit for Psychological Evaluation" headline.

Again, Hernandez's psychological state solely as relates to his claim for emotional distress is at issue. This is not an opportunity for fans to belittle and mock the mental health arena, though I fear that's precisely what this news story could turn into in the absence of responsible reporting that explains the legal process of such an exam.

That's why we are presenting this news story in a responsible manner: to portray the Court's order as it is in a legal sense: a discovery tool the defense may use to further investigate the plaintiff's claim of an altered psychological state, which in this case is the infliction of emotional distress. Just as a medical doctor in a personal injury case may examine a plaintiff as a patient for broken bones, a mental health professional may be summoned to evaluate a plaintiff who claims psychological injuries, such as emotional distress.

A psychiatry expert such as Kleinman can command top dollar for legal services and, presumably, that's what we have here. Kleinman holds a Medical Doctor designation and is associated with the Practising Law Institute (PLI). He is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and specializes in the field of Psychiatry and Law, and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School; his 2019 PLI coursework includes Employment Discrimination Law & Litigation.

MLB will likely rely on Kleinman as an expert to support its assertion that Hernandez did not suffer emotional distress. One other quick note...Hernandez is protected under federal law from retaliation for his discrimination claims, first filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This means MLB cannot use items from the discrimination filing against Hernandez and most certainly cannot take action against him in an employer-employee capacity based on claims made during Hernandez's EEOC complaint-turned-litigation.

United States Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein considered submissions from Hernandez and MLB before issuing his order.

Alternate Link: Discussion and brief analysis of what the legal/civil psych eval is (CCS)


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