Privileged Communications

Privileged CommunicationPrivileged communications were designed to protect certain types of relationships that our society values. These privileged communications typically include doctor-patient, attorney-client, spousal privilege and priest-penitent. The protection, benefit and the right to disclose any of the communications is for the communicator only. As a society, we value and recognize the significance of allowing an individual to be completely honest in these types of relationships without the fear their statements may later be used against them.

Last Thursday, the Michigan Court of Appeals heard arguments in a case involving the priest-penitent privilege. In the People v Bragg, a 17-year old defendant allegedly confessed to committing a sexual assault to his Reverend when he was 15. The prosecution called the Reverend to testify against the defendant about this privileged communication. Although the Reverend did testify, the trial judge threw out that testimony based on the recognized priest-penitent law in Michigan. The prosecutors appealed this case stating there was no privilege because the defendant was not seeking spiritual guidance and defendant’s mother was in the room. The Court of Appeals decision is expected in the next few weeks.

What do you think? Do we want to make more exceptions to this privilege rule? Do we still value confessions to a priest as sacred and protected?

Read more about the case >>

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