2019.03.21 Case Law Summary

People in the Interest of A.N-B., 2019 COA 46 (March 21, 2019)

Before a termination hearing, mother requested appointment of an expert, at state expense, in child psychology to evaluate her parenting time. The expert was appointed through the ORPC and conducted a parent-child interactional evaluation, which included a clinical interview of mother and direct observation of mother interacting with each of the four children in the case. Based on the expert’s report, mother elected not to call the expert as a witness. Over mother’s objection, the court granted the GAL’s motion for disclosure of the expert’s report and permitted the GAL to call the expert at the termination hearing.

On appeal, mother argued that this disclosure was an error. The court of appeals disagreed. Generally, when an indigent parent’s attorney requests the appointment of an expert under this provision, the attorney-client privilege protects communications between the parent and the expert. But, here, much of the expert’s testimony concerned his observations of the children and therefore did not fall within the scope of the privilege. The court then affirmed the termination.

This is an important reminder from the court of appeals about disclosure of expert reports and which types of reports must be disclosed to the other parties to a case. If you ever find yourself in doubt, please call Jill Cohen here at the ORPC! She is here to help you and can probably suggest an expert that might help your client out, especially in a difficult case.