March 2013 Bar Bulletin
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March 2013 Bar Bulletin

Resources on Mental Health, Disability and Capacity

By Kris Henderson
Reference Services Librarian


An individual's mental health, mental capacity or mental disability can be at issue in any number of legal contexts - the capacity to sign a will; competency to manage one's own affairs; discrimination on the basis of a mental disability in employment, housing, public accommodations or in a correctional facility; competency to stand trial; and culpability for a crime. The law library has a number of resources addressing a wide range of mental health issues in the law - here are some of them.

ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law

This commission (since renamed the Commission on Disability Rights) published a number of books dealing with mental disability law. They are listed below in chronological order. To some extent, the subject matter of one book may repeat the subject matter of another book. If that is the case, later works update similar material from earlier works. Each book begins with a short legal history and overview of the subject, and each has at least one chapter or section on expert witnesses and expert testimony.

John Parry & Eric Y. Drogin, Mental Disability Law, Evidence and Testimony: A Comprehensive Refer­ence Manual for Lawyers, Judges and Mental Disability Professionals (2007). This book provides a framework for looking at mental health issues as encountered in the practice of law and administration of justice. I recommend skimming the table of contents to orient yourself to the subject as a whole, as well as to the contents of the book. This manual looks at issues such as incompetency and dangerousness, and in both civil and criminal contexts, where appropriate.

John Parry, Disability Discrimi­nation Law, Evidence and Testi­mony: A Comprehensive Reference Manual for Lawyers, Judges and Disability Professionals (2008). As suggested by the title, this work addresses not only mental disabilities but other types of disabilities as well. Although discussion of mental disabilities appears in the text as a whole, there is also a chapter devoted to mental disability discrimination law.

John Parry, Criminal Mental and Disability Law, Evidence and Testi­mony: A Comprehensive Reference Manual for Lawyers, Judges and Criminal Justice Professionals (2009). This reference manual examines mental health and disability discrimination from the point of view of lawyers, judges and other professionals within the criminal justice system. The book includes chapters on criminal competency, insanity and diminished culpability, and mental disability discrimination involving inmates in correctional facilities.

John Parry, Civil Mental Disabil­ity Law, Evidence and Testimony: A Comprehensive Reference Manual for Lawyers, Judges and Mental Disabi­lity Professionals (2010). Among the topics covered in this manual are individual rights within the community; civil incompetency and guardianship; discrimination in several arenas based on mental disability under both federal and state law; key entitlement programs; and civil commitment and rights within facilities. The materials on expert evidence and testimony are extensive and are addressed issue by issue.

Mental Capacity -Testamentary and Transactional

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