Jaffee v. Redmond

LOCATION: Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp.

DOCKET NO.: 95-266
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 518 US 1 (1996)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 1996
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1996

Gregory E. Rogus - Argued the cause for the respondents
James A. Feldman - On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, support the respondents
Kenneth N. Flaxman - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Mary Lu Redmond, a former police officer, received extensive counseling from a licensed clinical social worker after she shot and killed Ricky Allen. Carrie Jaffee, special administrator for Allen, filed suit in federal District Court alleging that Redmond had violated Allen's constitutional rights by using excessive force in the encounter. During the trial, Jaffee sought access to the notes from Redmond's counseling. Redmond's counsel resisted asserting the conversations were protected against involuntary disclosure by a psychotherapist-patient privilege. The District Court judge rejected the argument, but the notes were not released. The judge instructed the jury that they could presume that the contents could have been unfavorable to Redmond. The jury awarded monetary damages. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision. It found that Federal Rule of Evidence 501 prompted the recognition of a psychotherapist-patient privilege.


Can psychotherapists be forced to provide evidence about their patients in federal court cases?

Media for Jaffee v. Redmond

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 1996 in Jaffee v. Redmond

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Number 95-266, Carrie Jaffee v. Marylu Redmond.

Mr. Flaxman.

Kenneth N. Flaxman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

In Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence Congress delegated to this Court the power to recognize new evidentiary privileges consistent with the principles of the common law as interpreted in the light of reason and experience.

Even before Rule 501, when this Court had full common law power to recognize privileges, the Court was very parsimonious in the privileges that it would recognize.

The Court recognized a common law privilege for trade secrets, a common law privilege for informants, a common law privilege for military secrets.

The Court rejected a news gatherer's privilege, and an accountant's privilege.

Following the adoption of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Court has continued to be very reluctant to establish new privileges.

The Court rejected an editorialist privilege, a State legislator's privilege, an accountant's work product privilege, and an academic peer review privilege.

William H. Rehnquist:

When were the Federal Rules of Evidence adopted, Mr. Flaxman?

Kenneth N. Flaxman:

1973, I believe.

William H. Rehnquist:

Thank you.

Kenneth N. Flaxman:

And the Court limited spousal privileges.

The respondents in this case ask the Court to fashion a new, broad privilege that would apply to any mental health professional engaged in psychotherapy or counseling.

The number of persons engaged in these professions is countless, and the number of conversations that would be protected by this new privilege are countless.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, it's not countless if they're licensed and we confine the privilege to those who are licensed.

I assume you could go to every State and count how many licenses there are.

Kenneth N. Flaxman:

Well, except the States are each day creating new counselor status positions.

I think California, there's now somebody who, after 2 years of an associate's degree, becomes a certified alcoholic counselor.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

But are they licensed, or they have some State certification, or is there some document?

Kenneth N. Flaxman:


They receive a State license, and they're--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well then, I assume they could be counted.

Kenneth N. Flaxman:

--They can be counted, but it would be... it would be a very large number.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

And Mr. Flaxman, they would be counted in a diversity case, is that not right?

Kenneth N. Flaxman:

That's absolutely correct.

In a diversity case, the Rules of Evidence require the Federal courts to apply State law in determining privileges.

This was not a diversity case, this case.

There was a Federal civil rights claim.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Wasn't there one State claim?