Thursday, July 29, 2010

child abuse - expungement - discovery

Northumberland Co., CYS - DPW - Cmwlth. Court - July 29, 2010


http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Cwealth/out/1799CD09_7-29-10.pdf


The Court affirmed DPW's order directing CYS to comply with the alleged perpetrator's request for production of all documentation, including medical records and films of the child, on which CYS' expert witness relied in his report and will rely at the hearing


It reversed DPW's decision denying the alleged perpetrator's request for production of the report of CYS' expert witness.


It affirmed the order to the extent that it denied the request that DPW produce other information in the investigatory file.

Concerning the right of the alleged perpetrator to the information, the court said that

It is undisputed that as a perpetrator of child abuse named in the indicated report, S.C. meets the definition of a "subject of the report." Under the plain and unambiguous language in 23 Pa. C.S. sec. 6340(b), therefore, S.C. is entitled to receive a copy of all information contained (1) in the Statewide central register or (2) in any report filed pursuant to Section 6313, subject to the restriction under Section 6340(c) as to revelation of the identity of the person who made the reports. . . .When [all of the relevant provisions of the CPSL] are construed in conjunction with the confidentiality provision in Section 6339 of the Law and the exception for a subject of the report in Section 6340(b), the Law clearly permits the subject of the report to receive all information contained in the reports filed with the county agency, including any accompanying photographs, X-rays and medical tests.

There is, however, a significant limitation to this apparent very broad grant. While the

Law clearly permits the subject of the report to receive all information contained in the reports filed with the county agency, including any accompanying photo-graphs, X-rays and medical tests.[23 Pa. C.S.] Section 6340(b) plainly and unambiguously limits the release of information to a subject of the report to that maintained in the Statewide central register or in any report filed pursuant to Section 6313. Consequently, S.C. is not entitled to receive any other information in the county agency's investigatory file. [emphasis added]

In discussing whether the case involved the appeal of a collateral order, the court noted the importance of the interests in this case:

Under Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pa. CONST. art.1, ยง 1, an individual has an "inherent and indefeasible" right to protect his or her reputation. In Pennsylvania, therefore, reputation is a fundamental interest which cannot be abridged without compliance with constitutional standards. R.H.S. v. Allegheny County Dep't of Human Servs., Office of Mental Health, 936 A.2d 1218 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007). The discovery issue raised in these appeals involves the constitutionally protected reputation interest of an individual accused of child abuse and the competing interest of the agency in maintaining the confidentiality of information in its possession. The Court is also asked to decide the validity of a provision of the Department's regulations. Resolution of these issues affects not only the parties in this case but also all other litigants in expungement proceedings. Hence, the Bureau's order satisfies the second element of a collateral order.


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