United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATIONS
F. SHEA SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
December 9 and 14, 2016, the Court conducted a competency
hearing in this matter. See ECF Nos. 265 & 270.
During the competency hearing, the Court heard testimony from
Cynthia Low, Ph.D, and Debra D Brown, Ph.D. The Court
received the parties' exhibits into evidence, and on
request of defense counsel, the Court ordered that the
following exhibits (collectively, “Requested
Materials”) remain sealed pending further orders from
A. Exhibit 1 (2016 Cynthia Low, Ph.D., Forensic Evaluation);
B. Exhibit 2 (Cynthia Low, Ph.D., Curriculum Vitae);
C. Exhibit 107 (2007 Cynthia Low, Ph.D., Forensic
D. Exhibit 113 (November 14, 2016, Debra D. Brown, Ph.D.,
Forensic Mental Health Evaluation).
See ECF No. 275.
conclusion of the hearing, the Court ruled on a motion by the
U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO), ECF No. 259; the Court
denied permission to disclose the Requested Materials to
Western State Hospital, and held in abeyance a ruling on
whether to allow disclosure of the Requested Materials to the
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
See ECF No. 275. Since then, the USAO has filed a
“Motion to Renew [its] Request to Provide Mental Health
Evaluations, ” ECF No. 276. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court finds good cause to grant the USAO's
request in part and allow limited disclosure of the exhibits
preliminary matter, it is unclear whether the USAO seeks to
renew its request as to Western State Hospital, because its
Motion to Renew solely addresses disclosure to the Snohomish
County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. See ECF
No. 276. Regardless, the Court continues to find that the
USAO has provided no persuasive reason why this Court should
order that the Requested Materials be provided to Western
State Hospital. The Court's denial of that portion of the
USAO's motion stands. See ECF No. 275.
the Court finds it to be in the interest of justice to allow
the USAO to disclose the Requested Materials to the Snohomish
County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Attached to its
Motion to Renew, the USAO included a declaration by Matt
Hunter, a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Snohomish County.
See ECF No. 276-1. Mr. Hunter states that Mr. Burke
has been charged with first degree murder in Snohomish
County, cause number 13-1-01584-1. ECF No. 276-1. The
Requested Materials will likely be relevant to Mr.
Burke's murder case, and are certainly relevant to issues
such as his eligibility for bail. Further, as Mr. Hunter
notes, the Requested Materials will be critical if the issue
of Mr. Burke's competency is raised again in those
Burke objects on the basis that he has a compelling interest
in keeping his healthcare records private. See ECF
Nos. 268 & 277. The Court notes that much of the sensitive
information contained in the Requested Materials has already
been discussed in open court during the competency hearing,
see ECF No. 265, and the transcript from that
hearing is available to the public, see ECF No. 267.
Indeed, as a matter of public policy, competency hearings and
court materials are usually made publicly available. See,
e.g., United States v. Guerrero, 693 F.3d 990,
998 (9th Cir. 2012) (noting that although a defendant's
rights to privacy and a fair trial are significant, “we
do not see how they would be substantially imperiled by open
said, the general right “to inspect and copy judicial
records is not absolute.” In re McClatchy
Newspapers, Inc., 288 F.3d 369, 373-74 (9th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435
U.S. 589, 598 (1978)). The Court has supervisory power over
its records and files, and may deny access to prevent
injustice. See Id. Here, the Court is mindful of Mr.
Burke's privacy interests, especially given the
particularly sensitive nature of mental health records. As
such, the Court finds it proper at this time to allow only
limited disclosure of the Requested Materials.
USAO may provide a copy of the Requested Materials to the
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office; the
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office shall then
provide a copy to Mr. Burke's counsel in cause number
13-1-01584-1. The Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's
Office may use the Requested Materials only in cause number
13-1-01584-1, and must first give defense counsel in that
case 14 days' notice of its intent to do so. This notice
requirement is intended to provide defense counsel with
adequate time to file any motions in the state court that it