Mosaic would like to express profound appreciation to attorneys from Holland & Knight and King & Spalding for their advocacy and for securing this important protection for Mosaic!
In November, Olga Murra was convicted on charges of forced labor based on evidence that she trafficked multiple victims from the time that they were children until they escaped as adults.
The defense subpoenaed Mosaic’s case records, which potentially targeted case management, legal, and counseling files. Attorneys from Holland & Knight represented Mosaic during the trial to protect the legal and counseling files as privileged communications. The district court ordered that the records were protected under the psychotherapist-patient and attorney-client privileges.
The defense raised that ruling on appeal, arguing that the trial court erroneously prevented them from viewing the records. The same team of attorneys from Holland & Knight was joined by attorneys from King & Spalding, and they wrote a detailed amicus brief supporting the trial court’s decision. The 5th Circuit just published their decision, which upheld the trial court’s ruling.
The primary argument from the defense was that the records were not protected because the clients made their outcry to the social service agency knowing that agency would report their allegations to law enforcement. Moreover, the defense argued that the survivors waived the privilege by testifying about the same content during the trial. The 5th Circuit disagreed –
- “A defendant does not get to crack open every confidential communication with a victim’s psychotherapist simply because that victim may have discussed facts with her psychotherapist that are relevant to the issues at trial.”
- “The singular conclusion arising from this discussion is that Murra has failed to establish waiver. Murra cannot be permitted, as she seeks, to review confidential communications and then advise the court of the harm she suffered as a result of the withholding.”
- “The victims’ testimony that they sought legal services from Mosaic because they believed they may be the victims of human trafficking does not amount to a waiver of the confidential communications attendant to those services. The victims have not, as Murra argues, disclosed a “significant portion of a confidential communication.” Rather, they have not disclosed any portion of their confidential communications, so there is no basis on which to rule that the privilege was waived.”
Special thanks to Christopher Healy, Mary Nix, Ashley Parrish, Jon Shepherd, Sara Schretenthaler, and Anne Voigts for all their tireless work.