Redmond was a police officer who shot and killed Allen
during a confrontation.
That administrator of Allen's estate (Jaffe) sued Redmond for using excessive force.
At trial, Jaffe attempted to introduce testimony and notes
from a social worker, Beyer, who counseled Redmond after the incident.
Redmond objected on the grounds that they were protected
from involuntary disclosure by a psychotherapist-patient privilege.
Beyer refused to turn over her notes and refused to
answer questions during a deposition.
At the end of the trial, the judge told the jury that
Beyer's refusal had no "legal justification," and that the jury
could therefore presume that the contents of the notes would have been
unfavorable to Redmond.
The Trial Court found for Jaffe and awarded $545k in
damages. Redmond appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed and remanded for a new
trial. Jaffe appealed.
The Appellate Court looked to FRE 501 and found
that it compelled the recognition of a psychotherapist-patient
"Reason tells us that psychotherapists and patients
share a unique relationship, in which the ability to communicate freely
without fear of public disclosure is the key to successful
FRE 501 says that the privileges of witnesses
should be governed by the principles of the common law and interpreted
in the light of reason and experience.
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court agreed that under FRE 501 and
common-law principles, the law favors compelling witnesses to give
whatever evidence they can, unless there is some other "public good
transcending the normally predominant principle of utilizing all rational
means for ascertaining truth."
The Court found that it was in society's best interest
for people to seek treatment for mental health problems.
The Court also noted that in a draft of the FRE,
Congress had listed psychotherapist-patient privilege as one of
nine privileges, but in the end decided that the determination of
privilege should be left up to the courts.
The Court suggested that if there was no psychotherapist-patient
privilege then most people wouldn't talk to psychotherapists and the
evidence wouldn't exist anyway.
In a dissent, Justice Scalia argued that:
Psychotherapy doesn't work.
Even if talking to people was beneficial to mental
health, why should talking to a psychotherapist be protected when talking
to a bartender is not?
Many States have a psychotherapist-patient privilege,
but it is a Statutory law enacted by the State legislature. Therefore,
Federal courts should not create it judicially, but instead wait for
Congress to legislate it.