Cutting Edge – Best Practices for Handling Mental Competency Issues

by Daphne A. Burns

The National Judicial College is delighted to announce the fall launch of the Mental Competency – Best Practices Model website at The purpose of the Mental Competency – Best Practices Model is to present a body of practices deemed to be most effective and efficient for handling mental incompetency issues in the criminal justice and mental health systems. The Mental Competency – Best Practices Model provides practices, protocols, and other recommendations for the various stages in the criminal justice-mental health systems continuum, such as:

  • Practices and protocols for the initial competency hearing and order for competency assessment;
  • Competency evaluation and report, including what a judge may expect to see;
  • Competency treatment plan – to keep the judge and all the stakeholders apprised;
  • Practices and protocols for the hearing on the competency determination;
  • Competency restoration, including the judge’s role in the referral, staying apprised of the status, and complying with Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715 (1972);
  • Standards and protocol for a hearing for the involuntary administration of medication in accordance with Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003);
  • Establishing a competency court or docket; and
  • Providing specialized education for judges, attorneys, and all of the stakeholders who handle competency issues.

In addition to the Model, the website has related resources, including videos of mock competency hearings, and links to articles, books, studies, statutes, cases, and other helpful information in the mental competency area. In the coming months, the NJC will present a series of live webinars that will also be posted on the website.

The website also features a blog to keep you apprised of new court decisions; legislative changes across the country, including implementation of best practices; educational offerings; new articles, books, studies and other releases; and other news and innovations in the mental competency area. We hope you will subscribe.

For further information, visit the website at, or contact the National Judicial College at (800) 25-JUDGE, or e-mail at .