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Name: In re Cole C.
Case #: D053845
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 06/04/2009
Summary

Jurisdiction and removal were proper where abuse of siblings placed the minor at risk. Three minors were removed from their parents, due to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse by Mark, the father of Cole, and the stepfather of Chloe and Ella. On appeal, Mark argued that the juvenile court erred by preventing the girls’ therapist, Dr. Corbett, from testifying at trial and making statements in agency reports based on the psychotherapist-patient privilege. The appellate court rejected the argument. Counsel for Chloe and Ella held the psychotherapist-patient privilege even though he was appointed after the privileged communication occurred. The holder of the privilege is determined at the time the disclosure of the confidential communications is sought to be introduced in evidence. The court did not abuse its discretion or violate Mark’s due process rights when it disallowed Dr. Corbett’s statements and testimony. Mark still had the option of presenting exculpatory evidence, and he did present 21 witnesses, cross-examined agency witnesses, and submitted exhibits to the court. Mark also contended that he was denied his due process rights by having a hearing on the girls’ petitions prior to completing the presentation of his case concerning Cole’s petition. The court found no error, concluding that the court properly heard evidence concerning Cole and did not automatically find him at risk because his half siblings were found to be at risk. Further, substantial evidence supported the court’s section 300, subdivsion (j) finding concerning Cole. Mark’s actions towards the girls and his inability to acknowledge the excessive nature of his discipline techniques put Cole at risk. There was also sufficient evidence to support the removal of Cole. Although Cole had not been harmed, he was at risk due to Mark’s treatment of his sisters. There were also no reasonable means to protect Cole without removing him from Mark’s custody.