Bodell v. Superior Court (unpublished)

Letter in Support of Cert filed: 01/07
Court: Court of Appeals for the State of California, 2nd Appellate District
Year of Decision: 2007

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 364KB)

Issue

Whether the Superior Court may compel the production of psychiatric and medical records upon a mere showing of “relevance” and with no stated compelling public interest

Index Topic

Confidentiality/Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege

Facts

In this case, the Court compelled the production of Mr. Bodell’s psychotherapy and medical records related to his treatment by a California psychologist, upon a mere showing of “relevance” and with no stated compelling public interest even though the documents were: (a) protected from disclosure by California’s constitutional right of privacy; and (b) protected from disclosure by statutory privileges. Mr. Bodell had not tendered any issue relating to his medical or psychological history in underlying litigation which arose from the alleged negligence of Mr. Bodell. Under the California statute providing privileged treatment of psychotherapy records, there is a strong presumption of confidentiality that can only be overcome if one of 12 enumerated exceptions is met. “Relevance” is not among them.

APA's Position

On request from the California Psychological Association, APA reviewed the case and agreed to file an amicus brief in the appeal of this order, in which CPA joined as co-amicus.  CPA and APA were concerned that unless the Superior Court decision was reversed, the order had the potential to seriously weaken the statutory psychotherapist privilege in California, by adding a de minimis basis to circumvent the statutory protections. Jaffee v. Redmond, the Supreme Court decision establishing privilege for therapy notes at the federal level, was relevant precedent and APA’s amicus brief in that case was foundational for the position of APA and CPA in the Bodell case.

Results

Shortly after APA and CPA filed their papers with the appellate court, the appellate court issued a “Palma Notice” to the plaintiff advising that it intended to summarily reverse the lower court decision. Although the plaintiff mounted a strong defense, the Court of Appeals did in fact reverse the decision as requested by the defendant, APA and CPA.