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Name: In re M.L.
Case #: E054939
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 11/09/2012
Summary

Privileged mental health records were erroneously admitted at jurisdiction hearing. Minors were placed in protective custody due to mother’s mental incapacity and neglect. Mother had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, and had been off her medication. She had been placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold after being found walking with the minors in 40-degree wet weather without proper clothing. At a jurisdiction hearing, mother objected to the disclosure of her confidential psychiatric records. The records were admitted, the petition was found true, and the minors were removed. On appeal, mother contended that the trial court erred in disclosing her confidential records to the Department and in permitting admission of the records. The appellate court agreed and reversed. Privileged information can be disclosed if relevant to the prevention or investigation of child abuse. Here, however, the Department did not seek the records for investigation, but to prove the petition. Further, the court failed to conduct a proper in-camera review of the records prior to their admission, and they were unnecessary because similar non-privileged information had already been admitted.