- Center for Ethical Practice - https://centerforethicalpractice.org -

What If You (or Your Records) Go To Court?

Ethical Pitfalls, Legal Rules, & Confusing Roles

Whether you provide records or testimony voluntarily or involuntarily, some important ethical standards and legal rules will apply. Things become even more complicated if you are not clear in advance about your role(s).


I. Roles We Might Play in Court Cases

A. Voluntary Roles

1. Providing Testimony or Records by Client Request

2. Reporting to Court About Court-Ordered Treatment

3. Forensic Expert Roles


Parent Coordinator

Collaborative Divorce Facilitator

4. Other Roles

B. “Involuntary” Roles

1. Responding to Subpoena from Advisary Party

2. Responding to Board Complaint or Malpractice Suit

3. Other

II. Ethical Standards

A. Standards Applicable in All Contexts

B. Standards Related to Specific Court Contexts

III. Laws

A. Health Records Privacy Statute (§32.1-127.1:03)

B. Privilege Statutes (§ 8.01-399; § 8.01-400.2)

C. Evidence – Copies of Client Records (§ 8.01-413; §32.1-127.1:03)

D. Testimony – Fact Witness vs. Expert Opinion (§ 8.01-401.1)

IV. Responding Ethically to Legal Demands for Disclosure in Court Cases

A. Responding to Subpoenas ( §32.1-127.1:03 )

1. Subpoena Duces Tecum (for Records)

2. Witness Subpoena (for Deposition or Testimony)

B. Providing Deposition or Courtroom Testimony

C. Responding to “Informal” Legal Demands (§ 8.01-399)

V. Ethical Issues Created By Role Conflicts & Role Confusion in Forensic Contexts

VI. Discussion and Case Examples

Educational Goals:
1. Summarize roles mental health professionals might play in court cases;
2. List the relevant Ethical Standards for each of the mental health professions;
3. List the Virginia and U.S. laws that might apply;
4. Describe the problems created by avoidable role conflicts and role confusion.