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In re: Centerstone

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 17, 2017

IN RE: CENTERSTONE

          Session September 13, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. 33417 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge

         Appellant, Centerstone, seeks review of the trial court's denial of a motion to quash a judicial subpoena issued to Centerstone for the mental health records of the victim in an underlying criminal case. Centerstone argues that the judicial subpoena issued pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-17-123 is an invalid mechanism for discovery of mental health records made confidential by Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-103. After careful consideration, we conclude that access to the confidential mental health records must come by way of the procedure set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-105 rather than through a judicial subpoena issued pursuant to section 40-17-123. Therefore, we vacate the trial court's order and remand the case.

         Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-8-101 Writ of Certiorari; Order of the Circuit Court Vacated; Case Remanded

          Allston Vander Horst, Centerville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Centerstone.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Christi Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and ROBERT L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE

         This is a unique matter for the Court of Criminal Appeals to consider: on the one hand, a legitimate criminal procedure statute, and on the other, a legitimate mental health privacy statute.

         On August 10, 2015, the defendant in the underlying criminal matter was indicted for incest, rape, and statutory rape by an authority figure. During the pre-indictment investigation, on July 9, 2015, the District Attorney's Office for the 22nd Judicial District obtained a judicial subpoena, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-17-123, for the mental health records of the alleged minor victim. The judicial subpoena was served upon Centerstone, a community mental health services provider operating in seventeen Tennessee counties with approximately 50, 000 patients. Centerstone informed the State that it would not comply with the subpoena, and the trial court issued a summons to appear and show cause on August 13, 2015. On August 21, 2015, Centerstone filed a motion to quash the judicial subpoena.

         The trial court held a hearing on September 1, 2015, during which Scott Valentine, Centerstone's Director of Health Information Management, testified that he had been Centerstone's custodian of records for eighteen years. Centerstone receives approximately twenty to twenty-five judicial subpoenas per year. As a matter of course, Centerstone responds to these subpoenas by informing the requesting party that it should seek disclosure of the records by way of Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-105(3), which requires a hearing. Usually, the requesting party will then seek a hearing under the statute. Mr. Valentine testified that during his career, a trial court has never ordered Centerstone to disclose mental health records in order to comply with a judicial subpoena.

         After the hearing, the trial court denied the motion to quash but granted Centerstone permission to request an interlocutory appeal under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9. This Court denied permission to appeal under Rule 9 but granted certiorari review under Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-8-101.

         Centerstone argues that a judicial subpoena issued pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-17-123 is not a valid mechanism for discovery of mental health records, which are made confidential by Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-103. Instead, Centerstone maintains that access must follow the ...


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