In a student’s case against Saint Joseph’s University over its sexual assault investigation and discipline procedures, the alleged assault victim’s mental health records are now a subject of debate.
The plaintiff, a student identified by the pseudonym John Doe, requested the mental health records of the alleged victim, a student identified by the pseudonym Jane Roe, in discovery.
In an Aug. 3 order, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied motions for summary judgment by the university, as well as Roe, who is facing a defamation claim. In the same order, among other discovery issues, Diamond said Roe must produce her mental health records, university disciplinary records and four days of telephone records.
Roe filed a motion for reconsideration Monday, contending she should not have to produce the records. Diamond had ordered both Roe and St. Joe’s to provide all the required materials by Wednesday.
Before Diamond issued his order, Doe’s lawyers argued in a letter to the court that Roe placed her mental health at issue in her deposition, in her initial complaint to the university and in her interview with the school’s hired investigator, Elizabeth Malloy of Cozen O’Connor. According to the letter, the topics of flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and self harm were introduced.
“Roe’s mental health and treatment records are relevant and discoverable as to her perception of the events and the actions of Doe,” Doe’s lawyers said.
But Roe’s lawyer argued in her motion that Roe is an “unwilling participant” in the lawsuit. There was no voluntary waiver of her mental health privilege, Roe’s motion said, because Roe is the defendant in the school’s claim, not the plaintiff.
“Not only is her psychological condition not at issue in this case, she did not voluntarily choose to place it at issue,” it said.
Roe pointed to cases cited by Doe. In each of those cases, she argued, the plaintiff’s records were at issue. And she said the request “smacks of victim blaming.”
“Plaintiff is seeking to ‘muddy the waters’ to somehow put the blame for plaintiff’s actions on Jane Roe’s reaction, which was not the ‘correct’ reaction or fast enough for plaintiff’s liking,” the letter said.
While the university did not argue the matter of Roe’s records in depth, it did acknowledge Doe’s request in its own response.
“While this part of counsel’s letter to you pertains to his request of Jane Roe, we are outraged, frankly, at the demand for Jane Roe’s mental health and disciplinary records, just as we were outraged at the exploration, in depth, of her sexual history when she was deposed,” the university’s filing said.
Since Doe brought the suit in May, the parties have been faced with several tight deadlines. Shortly after the complaint was filed, Diamond ordered the defendants to file their answers within 48 hours.
Doe had alleged in his complaint that he was treated unfairly by the school and its hired investigator. St. Joe’s has called the case “frivolous,” said its disciplinary process is fair and argued that as a university, it is not bound to the same due process requirements as law enforcement.
A spokeswoman for St. Joe’s did not respond to a call for comment. Neither did Susan Engle of Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers, who is representing Roe.
Edward Schwabenland, Doe’s lawyer, declined to comment other than to say the matters are being addressed in court.