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Name: Elijah W. v. Superior Court
Case #: B241011
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/08/2013
Subsequent History: opn. following rehg.
Summary

Minor defendant was entitled to his choice of expert psychologist who would not report confidential information about child abuse or threats. To assist in the preparation of his defense to a wardship petition, Elijah W. requested the appointment of a psychologist who had indicated she would respect the lawyer-client privilege and defense counsel’s duty of confidentiality and would not report client information concerning child abuse/neglect or a Tarasoff threat to authorities. The juvenile court denied the appointment of the psychologist and limited Elijah to members of the court’s competency to stand trial panel, even though panel members had informed the public defender that they would obey mandatory reporting laws regarding abuse and Tarasoff threats despite the attorney-client privilege. Elijah petitioned for a writ of mandate, and the appellate court granted relief. The court erred in limiting Elijah’s choice of expert assistance. The mandatory reporting laws do not contravene established law on confidentiality and privilege governing defense experts. Reading such a requirement into the law jeopardizes a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial. [Editor’s Note: This is an opinion following rehearing.]