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Editorial: Subpoenas for advocates raise concerns

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
January 19, 2011
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

In our culture, someone accused of a crime gets a vigorous defense to make certain all of the accused person’s constitutional rights are protected. This is as it should be. Those faced with the loss of their liberty or life deserve no less than the best defense that can be put forth.

That’s when the alleged perpetrator is actually accused.

In cases of domestic violence or sexual abuse, or both, not all victims come forward, leaving many perpetrators to go on with their lives while their victims suffer in silence.

Some people carry the impact of this kind of abuse with them their entire lives, never divulging to another human being the fact that it happened.

Programs in schools that teach children what such crimes are have resulted in many kids confiding in trusted adults about what has happened to them. Those adults have in turn gone to the authorities, resulting in child molesting prosecutions that may otherwise have gone unpursued. Again, this is as it should be.

People who have been a victim of this kind of crime not only deserve to see that the crime is punished, but also deserve and, in fact, need the help of competent counseling to successfully navigate the rest of their lives.

Anything that could potentially serve as a deterrent to a victim getting this kind of help should be given careful and dispassionate consideration.

In Crisis Connection, Inc. v. Ronald K. Fromme, Fromme has been charged with two counts of Class A felony child molesting. Fromme’s lawyer has subpoenaed the counseling records of the accusers and their mother, and he says his client needs a judge to review the counseling records in order for Fromme to have an adequate defense.

Attorneys for the counseling center argue that allowing even an in camera review could re-victimize those in treatment, especially those who live in small communities where everyone tends to know everyone else in town. Attorneys for the counseling center also point out should a victim admit he or she committed a crime, such as child abuse, the advocate already has a responsibility to report that to the proper authorities.

Subpoenas of records from counseling centers across the state have been issued by defendants hoping for in camera reviews in their cases, the lawyers also said.

In Fromme’s case, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that such records should be made available for an in camera review if defendants meet the three-step test outlined in Williams v. State. The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer and will hear arguments next month.

We fervently hope that the confidentiality of the relationship between advocate and victim will be allowed to remain intact. And we believe even allowing a judge to examine counseling records violates that relationship.
 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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