The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Line Between Military and Civil Law

DenverPost.com: "A federal appeals court Thursday dealt a major setback to a civilian Colorado Springs therapist hoping to stay out of jail, saying an Air Force judge in Texas acted properly in ordering her arrest for withholding rape-counseling records from the Air Force. "

Background: Therapist Jennifer Biers has been ordered by a military court to turnover her patient records of meetings with a rape victim to a military tribunal looking into allegations of rape against an Air Force Academy Cadet. Or face arrest. She has refused and a military judge has ordered her arrest but she has appealed to the Federal Courts.

I have to say I am puzzled by this case. The Supremes in 1996 said that the relationship between a therapist and a client/patient was sacrosanct and needs to be protected. But they have also ruled that civil courts can't intervene in military cases. But does that mean that a military court can interfere in the civilian world and order the arrest of civilians? Biers' patient was an Air Force Cadet when she alleges the assult took place and the defense says it needs to see if she told Biers in meetings that she was not raped so that they can prepare the best defense. But the military courts in this case have not upheld patient-therapist privilege even though the Defense Department promulgated rules to protect patient privacy. That clear yet?

I understand this idea of never the twain shall meet if we want to keep military courts and procedures separate from the civil world. But Biers is a civilian who has not subjected herself to military law. Shouldn't she be afforded the protection of the civil courts? She is after all a civilian therapist. Of course we are not talking about her rights her but the female Cadet's. Still, the privilege attaches to their relationship doesn't it? Strange days indeed.

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