Mandamus & Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege - Ex Parte Johnson
Ex parte Johnson, [Ms. 2150835, Sept. 9, 2016] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2016). The Court of Civil Appeals grants the petition of a clinical psychologist seeking a writ of mandamus directing the Shelby Circuit Court to vacate an order denying the psychologist's motion to quash a subpoena calling for the production of the psychologist's evaluation and treatment records concerning a minor child.
The Court first notes that while appellate courts typically will not review discovery orders by way of a mandamus petition, an exception applies when a privilege, such as the psychotherapist-patient privilege has been disregarded. Ms. *3, citing Ex parte T.O., 898 So. 2d 706 (Ala. 2004).
Reviewing § 34-26-2, Ala. Code 1975 (Psychotherapist-privilege statute) and Rule 503, Ala. R. Evid., the Court explains that the exception to the psychotherapist-patient privilege in child-custody cases recognized in Rule 503(d)(5), Ala. R. Evid., only applies to parties, i.e., parents, and not to communications or records of the child whose custody is in issue. Ms. *4-7. Because the psychologist was entitled to assert the privilege on behalf of the child (Ms. *4, n. 2, citing Ex parte Western Mental Health Ctr., 884 So. 2d 835, 841, n. 4 (Ala. 2003)), the Shelby Circuit Court erred in not granting the psychologist's motion to quash the subpoena filed on behalf of her patient.
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