The 9th Circuit has upheld the decision of lower courts to dismiss a discovery order challenge originally filed by an alleged victim of sexual assault. The alleged victim had tried to keep her mental health records private after an order to release them was created, as they pertained to a pending military crimes case. After the challenge was dismissed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) and pushed upwards to higher courts for reevaluation, the final decision of the 9th Circuit reaffirmed the dismissal did not violate any constitutional right or preexisting legal rule. The decision also argued that a judge does not lose authority simply for making an erroneous order or ruling.
KEY DETAILS OF EV V. US & MARTINEZ
A woman, whose identity has only been released as EV, cited her own mental health concerns and records as reasoning behind the expedited transfer of her active-duty husband. Later, she would accuse him of sexual assault, triggering a complex military criminal defense case, EV v. United States & Martinez.
Within the yarn of this case, Military Judge and Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Robinson ordered EV’s mental health records to be released for further review. He and the defense believed the records could be used to demonstrate that EV falsified the claims of sexual assault due to a history of similar misbehaviors. In believing that her personal medical records were sheltered from the public eye, or even the view of a courtroom, EV filed a writ-appeal to reverse Robinson’s order.
She stated the release of her mental health records would violate:
- Military Rule of Evidence [MRE] 513(e)(3)
- MRE 513(e)(4)
- Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 6b
- The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
- Article III
REVIEWS, DISMISSALS & EXPLANATIONS
The CAAF first heard EV’s challenge. It did not find that Judge Robinson acted outside of his scope of duty and dismissed the petition. EV went to the relevant U.S. District Court with a lawsuit, but it was also dismissed. Lastly, she appealed with the 9th Circuit and presented an oral argument. However, the result was the same, with the 9th Circuit dismissing her challenge and upholding the decision of Judge Robinson to release her mental health records for use within the pertaining criminal case proceedings.
While the 9th Circuit did recognize the significance of Judge Robinson’s order, it could not conclude that he violated any constitutional or military law right or statute. It cited UCMJ Article 26, 10 USC Section 826 to validate its ruling. Furthermore, the response explained that Judge Robinson and others in his position are given the power to make decisions regarding the discovery and use of evidence, whether those decisions are correct or incorrect. Yes, the 9th Circuit affirmed that a Judge does not lose their authority over a case simply due to making the “wrong decision.”
It explained that EV’s claims were heavily implying that Judge Robinson had made the wrong decision but did not go beyond that point. There were no convincing arguments to show Judge Robinson had made a decision that actually conflicted with or superseded his granted authority, however. Indeed, he was clear in his explanation that he used the authority granted through MRE 513(d)(5) to order the release of EV’s mental health records, as there was ample reasoning to believe she might have been fraudulently accusing another of sexual assault. The 9th Circuit decision did not expand the authority of Military Judges, but instead protected their authority from the encroachment of allegations of mistakes or misuse. Finally, the decision shows that an alleged victim does not have more rights than the accused. The accused’s right to a fair trial is trumps an alleged victim’s rights of privacy of medical records where there is good cause to believe the alleged victim has told multiple contradicting accounts of an alleged crime.
MILITARY CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER TRUSTED BY ALL BRANCHES OF THE ARMED FORCES
Military Criminal Defense Attorney Joseph Jordan has proudly stood by the side and defended military servicemen and service women for years. He has represented soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen facing the harshest of accusations, both in military criminal cases and court martial. Whether you are stationed at home or on a base abroad, you can depend on Attorney Jordan and his legal team to do everything possible to shield your rights and your good name.