Saturday, June 3, 2006

Case Law Development: Illinois Rules Accused’ Mental Health Records Not Open for Discovery in Child Molestation Case

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday that the mental health records of a former priest accused of child molestation are protected from discovery by the confidentiality granted by that state’s Confidentiality and Dependency Act, which was passed after the date of the alleged abuse. It reasoned that “the applicability of the Confidentiality Act and the Dependency Act to Kownacki's treatment records does not hinge upon a retroactivity analysis. Disclosure, which is the act regulated by both statutes, takes place only in the present or the future. . . . [A]pplying the nondisclosure provisions of the Confidentiality Act and the Dependency Act to preenactment treatment records and communications would not impair anyone's rights with respect to past transactions.”

The ruling came in a now-adult plaintiff’s lawsuit against a priest accused of child molestation.  The plaintiff sought the records to show that the diocese knew about the abuse in the 1970s when the molestation allegedly occurred and the trial judge had ordered them turned over.  When the defendants failed to provide the information, the trial judge issued a contempt order. Newspaper source.  Kevin McDermott, Post-Dispatch, stltoday.com. For the complete news story, please click here (last visited June 3, 2006, reo). The opinion of the Illinois Supreme Court in the case of Wisniewski v. Kownacki may be found by clicking here (last visited June 3, 2006, reo).

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