March 19, 2013

California high court upholds parolee confidentiality right

Two years ago, I reported on a California appellate opinion upholding the sacredness of patient-therapist confidentiality even for convicted felons who are mandated to treatment as a condition of parole. Today, the California Supreme Court upheld the gist of the ruling -- but with a proviso. Using strained logic, the court held that the breach of confidentiality was not so prejudicial as to merit overturning Ramiro Gonzales's civil commitment, as the Sixth District Court of Appeal had done.

Gonzales is a developmentally disabled man whose therapist turned over prejudicial therapy records to a prosecutor seeking to civilly detain him as a sexually violent predator (SVP). Forensic psychology experts Brian Abbott and Tim Derning testified for the defense; called by the prosecution were psychologists Thomas MacSpeiden and Jack Vognsen.

As I wrote two years ago, the ruling is good news for psychology ethics and should serve as a reminder that we are obligated to actively resist subpoenas requesting confidential records of therapy.

Today's California Supreme Court ruling is HERE. My prior post, with much more detail on the case, is HERE. The Sixth District Court of Appeal opinion from 2011, available HERE, provides a nice overview of both federal and California case law on confidentiality in forensic cases.
Hat tip: Adam Alban