Jaffee v. Redmond
SCOTUS - 1996 (518 U.S. 1)
- D was a police officer who killed P in the course of duty.
- After the shooting, D spoke with a therapist about the incident on numerous occasions.
- P's family sued D for using excessive force and wrongful death. P sought to use D's therapist's notes during X-exam of D.
- D and her therapist refused to answer questions about their sessions, so the lower court judge instructed the jury that the answers were probably bad for D.
- District court jury found for P, $45k federal, $500k state.
- Court of Appeals reversed, found for D that the conversations were entitled to privilege.
- SCOTUS affirmed, found for D, conversations privileged.
- Is it appropriate for federal courts to recognize a psychotherapist-patient privilege under Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
- Confidential communications between a licensed psychotherapist (AND SOCIAL WORKERS) and her patients in the course of diagnosis or treatment are protected from compelled disclosure under Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. (The patient can, of course, waive the protection.)
- Effective psychotherapy depends upon an atmosphere of confidence and trust in which the patient is willing to make a frank and complete disclosure of facts, emotions, memories, and fears.
- Protecting communications between these parties serves important private and public interests. The mental health of the citizenry is a public good of great importance.
- If there were no privilege, patients would probably withhold the information from therapists that opposing side would seek to compel. Thus, without privilege, much of the desirable evidence to which litigants would seek access would be unlikely to come into being at all.
- Each state has already enacted into law some form of psychotherapist privilege.
- This privilege will cause occasional injustice.
- The victim could be prevented from proving a valid claim or from establishing a valid defense.