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Court reaffirms 3-step test for in camera review

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The Indiana Court of Appeals doesn’t believe that its previous ruling regarding the in camera review of an organization’s documents relating to alleged molestation victims sends the message that it’s “open season” on the records of victim services providers.

On rehearing in Subpoena to Crisis Connection, Inc., State of Indiana v. Ronald Keith Fromme, No.19A05-0910-CR-602, Crisis Connection Inc., a nonprofit that provides services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, challenged the appellate court’s July 15 decision affirming an order for an in camera review of documents from the nonprofit relating to alleged molestation victims of Ronald Keith Fromme. The issue was a matter of first impression that came before the court on interlocutory appeal.

The organization claimed the opinion didn’t require defendants to make any threshold showing before obtaining an in camera review of confidential records and wanted the court to adopt the standard in People v. Stanaway, 521 N.W.2d 557 (Mich. 1994). But the judges did determine what standard criminal defendants should meet and used the three-step test that determines what information is discoverable in criminal cases: particularity, relevance, and if those are met, then the trial court must grant the request unless there is a showing of “paramount interest” in non-disclosure, wrote Judge Terry Crone.  

Crisis Connection also argued the appellate court improperly found it conceded that Fromme met the particularity and materiality criteria when it said “Crisis Connection has not disputed those findings.” Judge Crone wrote that the court didn’t find Crisis Connection affirmatively ceded this point, just that it didn’t present an argument as to the validity of the trial court’s findings.

“Therefore, our opinion provides little detail as to what sort of showing would suffice to meet the particularity and materiality criteria. Crisis Connection expresses concern that this lack of detail will send the message to attorneys and trial courts ‘that open season has been declared on the records of victim services providers,’” he wrote.

The Court of Appeals disagreed because the judges didn’t think the opinion sends the message that meeting the first two requirements will be an easy task in every case.

“[T]his case simply has not presented us with an occasion to expand upon those parts of the three-step test. Because discovery disputes are almost always fact-sensitive, we decline to elaborate beyond the enunciation of the appropriate standard to be applied,” he wrote.

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