Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Menendez v. Superior Court case brief

Menendez v. Superior Court case brief summary
834 P.2d 786 (Cal. 1992)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioners appealed a judgment of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Five (California), that held the psychotherapist-patient privilege did not apply to three audiotape cassettes seized in connection of a murder investigation from petitioner psychotherapist's possession.

CASE FACTS
During a murder investigation, three audiotape cassettes were seized from petitioner psychotherapist's possession. The cassettes contained notes of several sessions with petitioner patients and a recording of a session with petitioner patients. Petitioner patients were charged with murder, and petitioners asserted the psychotherapist-patient privilege pursuant to Cal. Evid. Code § 1014.

HOLDING
The court held that the privilege was available for the notes and recording, because they reflected confidential communications between petitioner patients and petitioner psychotherapist, were made in the course of the psychotherapeutic relationship, and were made in confidence.

DISCUSSION

  • The dangerous patient exception applied to the notes for two sessions, because petitioner psychotherapist had reasonable cause to believe that petitioner patients were dangerous to himself and others, and disclosure was necessary to prevent harm. 
  • The dangerous patient exception did not apply to the other sessions because petitioner psychotherapist did not have reasonable cause to believe that disclosure was necessary.

CONCLUSION
Judgment rejecting the psychotherapist-patient privilege for notes of two sessions affirmed, because petitioner psychotherapist had reason to believe disclosure was necessary to prevent harm. Judgment rejecting the privilege for notes of a third session and the recording reversed, because petitioner psychotherapist did not have reason to believe disclosure was necessary.


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