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Lamar Cornelius Harris v. State of Maryland, No. 79, September Term 2010, Opinion by
APPELLATE JURISDICTION – DISCOVERY ORDER – Defendant in a capital case
sought appellate review of two pretrial discovery orders that were directed to a state-run
maximum security psychiatric hospital and one of its physicians because they allegedly
violated the statutory patient-psychiatrist privilege found in Md. Code (2006 Repl. Vol.), §
9-109 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, and because information learned
through discovery might be employed at Defendant’s competency hearing; however,
appellate jurisdiction over the orders arises neither under the collateral order doctrine, nor
the Perlman doctrine.
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS
September Term, 2010
LAMAR CORNELIUS HARRIS
STATE OF MARYLAND
Opinion by Greene, J.
Adkins, J., dissents.
June 24, 2011
Petitioner, Lamar Cornelius Harris, has been charged with first degree murder and
conspiracy to commit first degree murder emanating from the death of a correctional officer
on July 25, 2006, at the Maryland House of Corrections, in Jessup, Maryland.1 To date, court
proceedings have stalled in the preliminary stages due to disagreement about the propriety
of the trial judge’s pretrial rulings ordering discovery of certain records and testimony
pertaining to Harris’s court-ordered competency evaluation and subsequent in-patient
treatment at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center (“Perkins Hospital”). Petitioner ultimately
seeks appellate review on the merits regarding the trial judge’s denial of Harris’s motion for
a protective order resulting from service of a subpoena on one of Harris’s treating physicians
as well as service of a subpoena duces tecum on Perkins Hospital. Because we conclude that
the discovery orders are not appealable at this time, we do not address the merits of Harris’s
challenges to those orders.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On May 23, 2008, Harris, through counsel, filed a “Motion for Competency
Evaluation,” requesting that the Circuit Court order an inpatient evaluation to be conducted
at Perkins Hospital.2 Thereafter, the trial judge ordered Harris’s commitment to the
Petitioner was initially charged by indictment on August 18, 2006 in Case No. 02K-06-001925, which was nolle prossed by the State on March 31, 2008. Subsequently,
Petitioner was recharged by indictment in Case No. 02-K-08-000647 on one count of first
degree murder, including related offenses, and one count of conspiracy.
In Ray v. State, 410 Md. 384, 978 A.2d 736 (2009), we noted that Clifton T. Perkins
Hospital Center (“Perkins Hospital”) is authorized by “[s]ection 10-406 of the Maryland
Health-General Article, Maryland Code (1982, 2005 Repl. Vol.)” to “receive patients
requiring psychiatric evaluation who have been accused of felonies and have raised the Not
Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (“DHMH”) for purposes of conducting
an examination as to his competency to stand trial and that he be confined within the
Maryland Department of Corrections, or at a facility determined by DHMH, for the purposes
of the evaluation. DHMH designated Perkins Hospital.3
On June 26, 2008, Harris, through counsel, filed a “Motion for Counsel to be Present
During Competency Evaluation and to Maintain all Recordings of the Evaluation Process.”
DHMH opposed the motion averring that the presence of attorneys would compromise the
evaluation process and furthermore that there was no danger to the defendant of having
potentially incriminating statements used against him because such statements would not be
admissible at trial to prove the criminal offense or enhance a sentence.4 Defense counsel then
filed a motion to stay the competency evaluation pending a ruling on its motion to allow
counsel to be present during the evaluation. The stay was granted. Apparently, unaware of
the stay, the Director of Pretrial Services at Perkins Hospital sent a letter to the trial judge on
July 3rd requesting an extension of 30 days to complete the evaluation. That request was
Criminally Responsible (NCR) defense and/or their Competency to Stand Trial is in question
. . . .” Ray, 410 Md. at 387-88, 978 A.2d at 737-38, fn. 2 (internal citations omitted).
A trial docket entry indicates that Harris was “committed” to the Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene (“DHMH”) on June 2, 2008 for examination of his competency.
DHMH was not a party to the criminal case when it filed a motion in the trial court
opposing Harris’s motion to allow counsel to be present during Harris’s competency
One week later, prior to the performance of the competency evaluation and prior to
the scheduled hearing on defense counsel’s motion to permit counsel to be present during
Harris’s evaluation, defense counsel moved to withdraw the motion for a competency
evaluation and to rescind the order for DHMH to conduct the evaluation as well as withdraw
the allegation of incompetence.5 The trial judge considered these motions at a hearing on
July 15, 2008. Defense counsel explained to the trial judge that according to the expert
opinion of a forensic neuropsychiatrist, Harris was not competent to stand trial and, therefore,
in counsel’s view the evaluation by DHMH was no longer necessary. At that time, the trial
judge did not permit Harris to withdraw his request for a competency evaluation, thus the
standing order for DHMH to conduct an evaluation was not rescinded. The trial judge also
concluded that Harris was not entitled to have counsel present during the competency
evaluation because it was not a critical stage of the proceedings, however, the trial judge
ordered that Perkins Hospital should make an audio recording of the entire evaluation and
disclose the recording to counsel unless the court ordered otherwise.
Subsequently, Harris submitted to a competency evaluation conducted by Perkins
Hospital. By report dated August 27, 2008 and filed September 4, 2008, Dr. Danielle
On July 10, 2008, Petitioner filed an “Averment of Incompetency to Stand Trial”
and a “Motion to Withdraw Motion for Competency Evaluation and Request to Rescind
Order Directing the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to Conduct a Competency
Evaluation of Defendant.” As noted in this opinion supra, these motions were denied.
Robinson opined that Harris was not competent to stand trial.6 The court then scheduled
November 20 and 21, 2008 for a competency hearing. On October 7, 2008, the court
received a letter from Perkins Hospital indicating that Harris’s mental state had shown
improvement since the first competency evaluation report, consequently, the court ordered
that, prior to the November competency hearing dates, DHMH should conduct “additional
mental health evaluations as may be necessary to enable the Court to exercise its duty to
determine the competency of the Defendant.”
Defense counsel moved, shortly thereafter, for the Circuit Court to issue a “Subpoena
to Produce Tangible Evidence” for service on the “Custodian of Records” at Perkins Hospital
to disclose to the defense “the complete file of the testing, examination, and ‘raw data’” that
supported the Psychology Consultation Report prepared by Dr. Cowan, a physician at
Perkins Hospital, which was used as part of Dr. Robinson’s first competency evaluation.
Contemporaneously, Petitioner filed a second “Motion for Subpoena to Produce Tangible
Evidence” requesting his “complete treatment file.” On October 29, 2008, the State obtained
a subpoena requiring Dr. Sameer Patel, Harris’s treating physician at Perkins Hospital, to
In a letter to the trial judge dated August 27, 2008, Dr. Angela Kim-Lee, Director
of Pretrial Services at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center (“Perkins Hospital”) also requested
that the Circuit Court order Harris committed to DHMH for in-patient care and treatment
enclosing such a draft order with the letter. It is not clear that the trial judge executed that
order, but Harris did remain at Perkins Hospital at least through the final competency
evaluation conducted in November 2008. Both parties refer to Harris having been
“admitted” to Perkins for treatment, and he was indisputably “treated” by physicians there.
Currently, Harris is incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution.
appear and testify at the November competency hearing.7 On November 7, 2008, Defense
counsel filed a motion for protective order seeking to quash the State’s subpoena for Dr.
Patel. The State then obtained and served a subpoena duces tecum on Perkins Hospital
requiring the custodian of the institution’s records to release all records, including treatment
records, relating to Harris from the date of his admittance on July 24, 2008 through the
motion date. There is no indication in the record that defense counsel filed a motion in
opposition to the State’s subpoena duces tecum.8 A second competency evaluation report
was filed with the trial court on November 14, 2008 averring that Harris remained not
competent to stand trial. Thus, physicians at Perkins Hospital have determined Harris to be
incompetent, however, no competency hearing has been held by the court.
The trial court held a hearing on November 18, 2008 to address the outstanding
motions with regard to competency. The trial judge ordered that the material requested in
Petitioner’s subpoena issued to Perkins Hospital should be furnished to the Petitioner’s
qualified expert as well as to the State, pursuant to its own subpoena duces tecum. Defense
counsel then argued that only the defense was authorized to obtain the treatment records
Neither party contests that Dr. Patel was Harris’s “treating physician” while he was
at Perkins Hospital. Defense counsel contends that the patient-psychiatrist privilege, codified
at Md. Code (2006 Repl. Vol.), § 9-109 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article
(“C.J.P.”), applies to the treatment materials and physician testimony, even though it does
not apply to the competency evaluation records. The trial judge found that all of the records
were intertwined and necessary for consideration of the competency issue.
Defense counsel, however, did object on the record, at a pretrial hearing of
November 18, 2008, to the State’s subpoena duces tecum on the grounds that the treatment
records were privileged.
generated as a result of Harris’s admission to Perkins Hospital. Defense counsel challenged
the State’s request to view treatment records, asserting Harris’s patient-psychiatrist privilege
in the records. The trial judge ruled that because Harris had put his mental competency in
issue he had no privilege to maintain confidentiality in any of the medical records made for
purposes of the competency evaluation or, otherwise, for treatment, and so the records should
be disclosed to the defense and to the State.9
In ruling on the discovery orders, the trial judge reasoned that
[t]he entirety of the [competency] report is heavily depended
(sic) upon his course of activities as Perkins. All the opinions
expressed are … dependent upon not just the isolated evaluation
of the psychologist doing the competency evaluation, but they’re
intertwined in a way that cannot be severed out with his course
of treatment, with his course of conduct at Perkins.
And if the competency of the Defendant is going to be
litigated in this Court, then it is impossible to extricate his
medical situation at Perkins, his medical records at Perkins,
from the opinions that are going to be rendered at least by the
folks at Perkins.
Now there are also, as I recall, experts that might be
testifying for the defense that have no connection to Perkins and
that may be so, but at the moment I find that it would be hard to
imagine that the witnesses from Perkins wouldn’t be called as
witnesses in this case if for no other reason than the Court would
want to hear from them.
And I think that it would be impossible to say that their
opinions would be somehow surgically severed from his
records. … Mr. Harris’ mental condition and derivatively his
physical condition is an issue that this Court has to resolve.
Thus, the trial judge rejected Harris’s request for a protective order and ordered that
Dr. Patel appear at the competency hearing, granted Harris’s motions for production of
tangible evidence, and explained why Perkins Hospital must comply with the State’s
subpoena duces tecum. DHMH immediately released to the Assistant State’s Attorney
involved in the case and to the defense counsel boxes containing copies of Harris’s medical
records from Perkins Hospital.10 Subsequently, the trial judge granted the State’s motion for
a postponement of the competency hearing in order to allow time to review the records.
Approximately two weeks later, defense counsel moved to stay the trial judge’s denial of the
[Defendant] has no privilege under the current situation
to any of the medical records at Perkins, whether they be
directly or indirectly associated with his evaluation or his
And the Court is going to find that they should be
disclosed to both parties. And ultimately if they’re used in the
context of the competency hearing, they may or may not be used
in context of other proceedings in this case.
And I don’t think that either party is entitled to use
factual information in a trial, in a competency matter, in a sanity
situation, or in a sentencing procedure, that the other party
hasn’t had reasonable discovery of.
So for that reason, if the materials are requested by either
party they should be disclosed and provided in their entirety.
The Assistant Attorney General who was representing the interests of DHMH at
the pre-trial proceedings told the court that the records released to both parties contained “the
entire medical record” but that the “record was developed primarily in connection with
mental health services.”
motion for a protective order and the trial judge’s ruling to disclose Harris’s medical records
to the State, as well as noting an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. The trial judge
granted the stay on December 11, 2008 and ordered that “to the extent that the State has not
already reviewed or discussed these records, they shall refrain from doing so until further
order of the Court.”11
In an unreported opinion, the Court of Special Appeals dismissed Harris’s appeal.
That court held that the challenged orders were interlocutory discovery orders and therefore
not appealable, final orders; and, moreover the case did not merit application of the collateral
order doctrine as an exception to the final judgment rule. Defense counsel filed a motion for
reconsideration suggesting that the intermediate appellate court’s holding was defective
because it did not address the potential application of the Perlman doctrine to Harris’s case.
See Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7, 38 S.Ct. 417, 62 L. Ed. 950 (1918).12 The Court
of Special Appeals declined Harris’s motion to reconsider and therefore made no comment
on the application of Perlman to this case.
The State’s Attorney had an opportunity to review the disclosed Perkins records
from November 18, 2008 until December 11, 2008 because the Assistant Attorney General
representing DHMH brought the records to the hearing and immediately delivered copies to
both the defense and to the State upon the trial judge’s ruling.
The Perlman doctrine, as discussed infra, describes a limited scenario whereby
interlocutory discovery orders are immediately appealable by a privilege holder because
discovery is directed to a disinterested third-party who lacks “sufficient stake in the
proceeding to risk contempt by refusing compliance.” See Church of Scientology of
California v. U.S., 506 U.S. 9, 18, 113 S. Ct 447, 452, 121 L. Ed. 2d 313, 322, n. 11 (1992)
(applying the Perlman doctrine).
We granted certiorari, Harris v. State, 415 Md. 607, 4 A.3d 512 (2010), to answer the
following consolidated, reworded question:
Were the trial court’s interlocutory orders authorizing disclosure
of treatment records and testimony by the treating physician that
are allegedly protected by the patient-therapist privilege
immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, or,
if not, should this Court adopt the exception to the final
judgment requirement for appealability recognized by the
United States Supreme Court in Perlman v. U.S., 247 U.S. 7, 38
S.Ct. 417, 62 L. Ed. 950 (1918), and if so, does that doctrine
The orders that Petitioner submits that warrant appellate review are: (1) the trial judge’s order
denying Petitioner’s “Motion for Protective Order” through which Petitioner sought to
preclude the testimony of his treating physician, Dr. Patel, at his competency hearing; and
(2) the trial judge’s order permitting the State’s subpoena for disclosure of Petitioner’s
medical records held by Perkins Hospital, including those made during the two competency
evaluations and all treatment records.13
Generally, in Maryland appellate jurisdiction may arise only after entry of a final
judgment. See Md. Code (2006 Repl. Vol.), § 12-301 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings
Defense counsel contends that the trial judge’s orders are “markedly different from
most discovery orders” because they are “more important than the usual discovery order
[and,] they compelled disclosure of privileged material in a case where the State is seeking
the death penalty and the available evidence shows the defendant is incompetent to stand
trial[,]” and they were “completely separate from the merits in a way that most discovery
orders are not” because they were “unrelated to Mr. Harris’s guilt or innocence[.]”
Notwithstanding these distinctions, the orders at issue are in fact discovery orders subject to
all applicable case law.
Article (“C.J.P.”) (“[A] party may appeal from a final judgment entered in a … criminal case
by a circuit court. … unless … the right of appeal is expressly denied by law.”). A final
judgment is statutorily defined as “a judgment, decree, sentence, order, determination,
decision, or other action by a court ... from which an appeal ... may be taken.” C.J.P. 12101(f). The necessity of “finality,” arises from “[t]he fundamental objective … [which] is
‘to prevent piecemeal appeals and to prevent the interruptions of ongoing judicial
proceedings[.]’” WSSC v. Bowen, 410 Md. 287, 294-95, 978 A.2d 678, 683 (2009) (quoting
St. Mary’s County v. Lacer, 393 Md. 415, 424, 903 A.2d 378, 383-84 (2006). This Court is
responsible for defining the contours of the “finality” of a judgment, Peat & Co. v. Los
Angeles Rams, 284 Md. 86, 91, 394 A.2d 801, 804 (1978), and accordingly we have stated
that “to constitute a final judgment, a trial court’s ruling ‘must either decide and conclude the
rights of the parties involved or deny a party the means to prosecute or defend rights and
interests in the subject matter of the proceeding.’” Schuele v. Case Handyman, 412 Md. 555,
565, 989 A.2d 210, 216 (2010) (quoting Nnoli v. Nnoli, 389 Md. 315, 324, 884 A.2d 1215,
In criminal cases, in particular, we have held that “no final judgment exists until after
conviction and sentence has been determined, or in other words, when only the execution of
the judgment remains.” Sigma Repro. Health Cen. v. State, 297 Md. 660, 665, 467 A.2d 483,
485 (1983) (citing Parr v. United States, 351 U.S. 513, 518, 76 S.Ct. 912, 100 L. Ed. 1377
(1956)). But, in Sigma, we noted that criminal defendants may be able to “appeal from
certain pretrial or trial orders [where] the rights of the defendant would be lost or irreparably
harmed if an appeal was not allowed until after trial.” Sigma, 297 Md. at 666, 467 A.2d at
486.14 “There are … three well-identified, but infrequently sanctioned, limited exceptions
to the final judgment rule which permit appellate review before a final judgment has been
rendered.” Falik v. Hornage, 413 Md. 163, 175, 991 A.2d 1234, 1241-42 (2010) (citing St.
In Sigma Repro. Health Cen. v. State, 297 Md. 660, 467 A.2d 483 (1983), we
[t]hose orders which courts have held that the defendant can
immediately appeal include those involving: his right not to be
subjected to double jeopardy, see Abney v. United States, 431
U.S. 651, 97 S. Ct. 2034, 52 L. Ed. 2d 651 (1977); … his right
to file an in forma pauperis petition or to allege his right to bring
a case as an indigent, see Roberts v. United States District
Court, 339 U.S. 844, 70 S. Ct. 954, 94 L. Ed. 1326 (1950);
Pearlman, 226 Md. 67; and his right to be adjudged competent
to stand trial, see Jolley v. State, 282 Md. 353, 384 A.2d 91
(1978). Trial court orders that have been determined to be
interlocutory and nonappealable include those involving the
denial of: defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment because
his right to a speedy trial had been violated, see United States v.
MacDonald, 435 U.S. 850, 98 S. Ct. 1547, 56 L. Ed. 2d 18
(1978); Stewart, 282 Md. 557; defendant’s motion concerning
pretrial discovery orders, see Dow Chemical Co. v. Taylor, 519
F. 2d 352 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 1033 (1975); Kardy
v. Shook, 237 Md. 524, 207 A.2d 83 (1965); defendant’s motion
to suppress evidence, see State v. Cooley, 430 A.2d 789 (Del.
1981); defendant’s motion for a new trial because of the trial
court's selection of venue after defendant’s exercise of his right
to removal, see Lee, 161 Md. 430; and defendant’s motion for
new trial, see State v. Asherman, 180 Conn. 141, 429 A.2d 810
(1980). Accord Warren, 281 Md. 179 (appeal from an order for
probation without judgment)….
Sigma, 297 Md. at 666-67, 467 A.2d at 486 (emphasis added) (some internal citations
Joseph’s v. Cardiac Surgery, 392 Md. 75, 84, 896 A.2d 304, 309 (2006)). Those exceptions
are: “appeals from interlocutory orders specifically allowed by statute; immediate appeals
permitted under Maryland Rule 2-602;15 and appeals from interlocutory orders allowed under
the common law collateral order doctrine.” Falik, 413 Md. at 175-76, 991 A.2d at 1242
(quoting St. Joseph’s, 392 Md. at 84, 896 A.2d at 309).
Maryland Rule 2-602 provides:
(a) Generally. Except as provided in section (b) of this Rule, an
order or other form of decision, however designated, that
adjudicates fewer than all of the claims in an action (whether
raised by original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or thirdparty claim), or that adjudicates less than an entire claim, or that
adjudicates the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties
to the action:
(1) is not a final judgment;
(2) does not terminate the action as to any of the
claims or any of the parties; and
(3) is subject to revision at any time before the
entry of a judgment that adjudicates all of the
claims by and against all of the parties.
(b) When allowed. If the court expressly determines in a written
order that there is no just reason for delay, it may direct in the
order the entry of a final judgment:
(1) as to one or more but fewer than all of the
claims or parties; or
(2) pursuant to Rule 2-501(f)(3), for some but less
than all of the amount requested in a claim
seeking money relief only.
In Maryland, discovery orders “being interlocutory in nature, are not ordinarily
appealable prior to a final judgment terminating the case in the trial court.” In re Foley, 373
Md. 627, 634, 820 A.2d 587, 592 (2003) (reversing the Court of Special Appeals’s holding
that a discovery order for a medical examination of the subject of a guardianship proceeding
met the four requirements of the collateral order doctrine because the order did not satisfy
the third and fourth requirements). Moreover, “[i]t is well established in Maryland that
generally ‘interlocutory discovery orders do not meet the requirements of the collateral order
doctrine and are not appealable under that doctrine.’” Falik, 413 Md. at 177, 991 A.2d at
1243 (quoting St. Joseph’s, 392 Md. at 87, 896 A.2d at 311).
Here, Petitioner persists in seeking appellate review pursuant to the collateral order
doctrine, in opposition to the holding by the Court of Special Appeals, or alternatively, under
the Perlman doctrine, which he avers should be an applicable fourth exception to the final
judgment rule. Petitioner asserts that our application of the Perlman doctrine to this case
would result in the relief that he seeks, which ultimately is a review of the merits of his
At the hearing on Petitioner’s protective order, defense counsel argued that the
disclosure of his treatment records and testimony of his treating physician would violate the
patient and psychiatrist or psychologist privilege set forth in Md. Code (2006 Repl. Vol.), §
9-109 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (“C.J.P.”). Petitioner, therefore,
contested the discoverability of the records and testimony. The trial judge found that Harris
had not expressly waived the privilege, but ruled that there was in fact no privilege under
C.J.P. § 9-109(d)(3)(i) because defense counsel raised Harris’s mental condition by alleging
incompetence to stand trial and requesting a competency evaluation. The trial judge thus
disavowed Harris’s suggested distinction between medical records created for the purpose
II. The Collateral Order Doctrine
Harris contends that the collateral order doctrine applies here and that consequently
we should review the merits of the trial judge’s rulings.17 We have held that the collateral
of the competency evaluations and those for treatment. Ostensibly, a future appeal on these
orders would ask whether the trial judge abused his discretion in denying the motion for a
protective order of the subpoenaed treatment records and physician testimony.
“The collateral order doctrine was recognized by the United States Supreme Court
in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corporation, 337 U.S. 541, 69 S.Ct. 1221, 93 L. Ed.
1528 (1949).” St. Mary’s County v. Lacer, 393 Md. 415, 428, 903 A.2d 378, 386 (2006); see
also Dep’t of Social Services v. Stein, 328 Md. 1, 11, 612 A.2d 880, 884-85 (1992) (noting
that Cohen is the “seminal case on the collateral order doctrine); see also Sigma Reproductive
Health Center v. Maryland, 297 Md. 660, 665, 467 A.2d 483, 485 (1983) (noting that “[n]ot
withstanding the development of the collateral order doctrine in Cohen … and its progency
… the federal courts and this Court, with relatively few exceptions, have strictly adhered to
the final judgment rule.”).
In Cohen, the Supreme Court held that the trial judge’s ruling denying the corporate
defendant’s motion to compel the shareholder plaintiffs to post security for costs pursuant
to an applicable state statute was an immediately appealable order, stating:
This decision appears to fall in that small class which
finally determine claims of right separable from, and collateral
to, rights asserted in the action, too important to be denied
review and too independent of the cause itself to require that
appellate consideration be deferred until the whole case is
We hold this order appealable because it is a final
disposition of a claimed right which is not an ingredient of the
cause of action and does not require consideration with it. But
we do not mean that every order fixing security is subject to
appeal. Here it is the right to security that presents a serious and
unsettled question. If the right were admitted or clear and the
order involved only an exercise of discretion as to the amount of
order doctrine “treats a ‘narrow class’ of interlocutory orders as final judgments regardless
of the posture of the case.” Bowen, 410 Md. at 296, 978 A.2d at 684 (quoting St. Mary’s
County v. Lacer, 393 Md. at 428, 903 A.2d at 386) (citing In re Franklin P., 366 Md. 306,
326, 783 A.2d 673, 685 (2001))). “Time after time, this Court’s opinions have emphasized
that the collateral order doctrine is extremely narrow and that it is applicable only under
extraordinary circumstances.” Bowen, 410 Md. at 296, 978 A.2d 684 and cases cited therein.
This Court has recently reiterated in Falik the factual predicate to application of the
collateral order doctrine. There, we said:
The collateral order doctrine treats
as final and appealable interlocutory orders that:
(1) conclusively determine the disputed question;
(2) resolve an important issue; (3) resolve an issue
that is completely separate from the merits of the
action; and (4) would be effectively unreviewable
on appeal from a final judgment. The collateral
order doctrine is a very narrow exception to the
final judgment rule, and each of its four
requirements is very strictly applied in Maryland.
In particular, the fourth prong, unreviewability on
appeal, is not satisfied except in extraordinary
security, a matter the statute makes subject to reconsideration
from time to time, appealability would present a different
Cohen, 337 U.S. at 546-47, 69 S.Ct. at 1225-26 , 93 L. Ed. At 1536-37. In Sigma, we noted
that “[i]n Cohen, the district court order neither involved a step toward final disposition of
the merits nor did it represent an aspect of the case that would be merged in a final judgment.
Sigma, 297 Md. at 668, 467 A.2d at 487 (citing Cohen, 337 U.S. at 546).
Falik, 413 Md. at 176-77, 991 A.2d at 1242-43 (quoting St. Joseph’s, 392 Md. at 86, 896
A.2d at 310) (quoting Nnoli, 389 Md. at 329, 884 A.2d at 1223) (internal citations and
quotation marks ommited)); see Bowen, 410 Md. at 296, 978 A.2d at 684 (noting that all four
elements of test are “conjunctive in nature” and must each be met).18 Thus, the collateral
order doctrine is “based upon a judicially created fiction,” Dawkins v. Baltimore Police, 376
Md. 53, 64, 827 A.2d 115, 121 (2003), which permits immediate appellate review of an order
that shares sufficient attributes of a final judgment.
Interlocutory discovery orders, such as the ones implicated here, typically are not
immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine because most fail the third and
fourth requirement. Discovery orders
do not comply with the third requirement of the collateral order
doctrine, as they generally are not completely separate from the
merits of the lawsuit. Instead, a typical discovery order is aimed
at ascertaining critical facts upon which the outcome of the …
controversy might depend. In addition, discovery orders fail to
meet the collateral order doctrine’s fourth element, as they are
effectively reviewable on appeal from a final judgment.
Falik, 413 Md. at 177, 991 A.2d at 1243 (quoting St. Joseph’s, 392 Md. at 87, 896 A.2d at
311). In St. Joseph’s, we noted:
The “singular situation,” [In re Foley, supra, 373 Md. at
The Supreme Court has referred to the Cohen collateral order doctrine as a three
part test, as have we. See Mohawk Indus. v. Carpenter, 558 U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 599, 605, 175
L. Ed. 2d 458, 466 (2009) (“This requirement finds expression in two of the three traditional
Cohen conditions.”); see also Sigma, 297 Md. at 669-70, 467 A.2d at 488 (referring to “the
three prongs of the Cohen collateral order doctrine ….). Nevertheless, here we refer to four
requirements, the substance of the test under either formulation being exactly the same.
636, 820 A.2d at 593] in which this Court has held that
interlocutory discovery orders are appealable under the
collateral order doctrine, involves trial court orders permitting
the depositions of high level governmental decision makers for
the purpose of “extensively probing … their individual
decisional thought processes.” Montgomery Co. v. Stevens,
supra, 337 Md. at 479, 654 A.2d at 881, quoting Public Service
Comm’n v. Patuxent Valley, supra, 300 Md. at 207, 477 A.2d at
St. Joseph’s, 392 Md. at 88, 896 A.2d at 311(footnote omitted). The orders here cannot be
subsumed into that “singular situation” category highlighted in the St. Joseph’s case.
In the present case, the Court of Special Appeals assumed arguendo that the first two
requirements were met, and then held that the discovery orders failed the third and fourth
requirements of the collateral order doctrine. The intermediate appellate court determined
that the resolution of Harris’s competency to stand trial would necessarily impact the merits
of the trial, e.g., an incompetency finding by the trial judge would preclude trial. In addition,
the court noted that the discovery orders were not unreviewable on appeal, In re Foley, 373
Md. at 636, 820 A.2d at 593, where we noted that “extraordinary situations” usually precede
a determination that a discovery order is “effectively unreviewable[.]” We will likewise
assume arguendo that the discovery orders conclusively determined the issue of privilege
pertaining to the records and that privilege was an important issue at the time of the orders,
and therefore, we consider whether the third and fourth requirements of the collateral order
doctrine were met.19 We conclude that they were not; thus the doctrine does not apply in this
Even if we did not assume that the issue of privilege was “conclusively determined”
A. The Third Requirement of the Collateral Order Doctrine
The collateral order doctrine requires that the contested order(s) be completely
“separable from” and “collateral to” the merits of the action. See Cohen, 337 U.S. at 546,
69 S. Ct at 1225-26, 93 L. Ed. at 1536 (holding that an order for plaintiff shareholders to post
a bond, allegedly required by statute, was appealable because that decision would not “affect,
or … be affected by, [a] decision on the merits of this case[,]”and that the “claims of right
[were] separable from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the [underlying] action”); c.f.
Schuele, 412 Md. at 573-74, 989 A.2d at 221 (holding that an order denying a motion to
compel arbitration satisfied the third requirement because it “determine[d] only the forum
in which the parties should settle their dispute without reaching any of [the] … claims”).
Determining that the third prong was not met, the Court of Special Appeals held, in
the present case, that
the issue of privilege pertaining to [Harris’s] records from
Perkins is not completely independent from the merits of the
action, that is, the issue of guilt or innocence of the crimes
charged. To the contrary, the circuit court’s ruling regarding the
at this stage, the issue would still not be ripe for appellate review. We note the reasoning in
Kurstin v. Bromberg Rosenthal, 191 Md. App. 124, 990 A.2d 594 (2010), where the
intermediate appellate court concluded that a disputed question relating to whether a
“deposition would improperly breach the attorney-client privilege” would not be
“conclusively determined” under the collateral order doctrine unless and “until the contents
of any communication” between the privilege holder and her attorney “are either received
in or rejected as evidence at the trial of a the legal malpractice case.” Kurstin, 191 Md. App.
at 148-49, 990 A.2d at 608.
disclosure of [Harris’s] medical records, and the testimony of his
treating physician, was in the nature of a discovery order aimed
at ascertaining critical facts upon which the outcome of a
competency determination might depend. The outcome of the
competency determination would, in turn, impact the merits of
the action because [Harris] cannot be tried on the merits until the
circuit court finds him competent to stand trial. We conclude
that the resolution of the disputed issue is not separate from the
merits of the action.
Harris v. State, No. 2299, slip op. at 7-8 (April 19, 2010).
Generally, most discovery orders are not separate from the merits of an action. See
e.g., Hudson v. Housing Authority, 402 Md. 18, 26, 935 A.2d 395, 399-400 (2007)
(determining that interrogatories inquiring into the underlying facts of the Housing
Authority’s claim against a tenant and his breach of a residential lease were critical to an
ultimate determination of that breach) and cases cited therein. For example, in In re Foley,
373 Md. at 635, 820 A.2d at 592, we held that an order for a medical examination of the
subject of guardianship proceedings “was obviously not completely separate form the merits
of the controversy. On the contrary, it was a typical discovery order aimed at ascertaining
critical facts upon which the outcome of the guardianship controversy might depend.”
Moreover, in Sigma, this Court held that “the denial of the motion to quash [a subpoena
duces tecum] is not appealable” because “the order to produce documents … is not
completely separate from the merits of the criminal proceedings.” Sigma, 297 Md. at 670,
467 A.2d at 488.
While a competency hearing is a distinct phase of a criminal trial, it is not entirely
“separate from” and “collateral to” the trial but rather it is “a step toward final disposition of
a prosecution.” See Sigma, 297 Md. at 666, 467 A.2d at 486 (quoting State v. Lekin, 271
N.W. 2d 697, 700 (Iowa 1978)) (“If an order decides an issue merely as a step toward final
disposition of a prosecution, it is interlocutory; however, if it disposes of a separable branch
of the case, it is an appealable final judgment.”). The determination of incompetence
requires that a trial judge specifically consider a criminal defendant’s ability to understand
the nature or object of the proceedings; or to assist in his or her defense; incompetence exists
when a defendant incapable of either. Peaks v. State, __ Md. __, __ A.2d __ (2011); see also
Md. Code (2008 Repl. Vol.), § 3-101(f) of the Criminal Procedure Article.
incompetence is suspected or alleged, the competency determination becomes a condition
precedent that is inextricably intertwined with the criminal trial. Analogous to In re Foley,
here, the competency hearing will involve ascertaining the critical facts upon which the court
will determine whether Harris will be compelled to stand trial, or not.20 Accordingly,
because the discovery orders for treatment records and testimony were not aimed at resolving
an issue entirely collateral to and separate from the merits of the underlying criminal case,
here, the third requirement of the collateral order doctrine is not met.
B. The Fourth Requirement of the Collateral Order Doctrine
Generally, “discovery orders fail to meet the collateral order doctrine’s fourth element,
It appears that the treatment records were particularly pertinent to the competency
hearing because of the change in Harris’s mental status (incompetent, competent, and then
incompetent again) conveyed to the court by Perkins’s staff. In the instant case, the trial
judge stated that he would not proceed with the competency hearing without giving both
parties the benefit of all information about Harris’s evaluations and treatment at Perkins
Hospital, indicating that in his view any other position would be fundamentally unfair.
as they are effectively reviewable on appeal from a final judgment” and “[a] party aggrieved
by a discovery order and aggrieved by the final judgment may challenge the discovery ruling
on appeal from the final judgment.” St. Joseph’s, 392 Md. at 87, 896 A.2d at 311 (citing In
re Foley, 373 Md. at 635, 820 A.2d at 587; c.f. Town of Chesapeake Beach v. Pessoa Co.,
330 Md. 744, 757-58, 625 A.2d 1014, 1020-21 (holding that the existence of an agreement
to arbitrate is necessarily a preliminary matter and so a trial court ruling requiring arbitration
must be immediately appealable because “judicial review of an award following arbitration
is limited.”). The United States Supreme Court has recently highlighted the exclusivity of
those orders which may be “effectively unreviewable” stating:
[T]he third Cohen question, whether a right is ‘adequately
vindicable’ or ‘effectively reviewable,’ simply cannot be
answered without a judgment about the value of the interests
that would be lost through rigorous application of a final
judgment requirement.” Digital Equipment, 511 U.S. at 878879, 114 S.Ct. 1992[, 128 L. Ed. 2d 842]. That a ruling “may
burden litigants in ways that are only imperfectly reparable by
appellate reversal of a final district court judgment . . . has never
sufficed.” Id., at 872, 114 S.Ct. 1992, 128 L. Ed. 2d 842.
Instead, the decisive consideration is whether delaying review
until the entry of final judgment “would imperil a substantial
public interest” or “some particular value of a high order.” Will,
546 U.S., at 352-53, 126 S.Ct. 952, 163 L. Ed. 2d 836.
In making this determination, we do not engage in an
“individualized jurisdictional inquiry.” Coopers & Lybrand v.
Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 473, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 57 L. Ed. 2d 351
(1978). Rather, our focus is on “the entire category to which a
claim belongs.” Digital Equipment, 114 S.Ct. 1992[, 128 L. Ed.
2d 842]. As long as the class of claims, taken as a whole, can be
adequately vindicated by other means, “the chance that the
litigation at hand might be speeded, or a ‘particular injustic[e]’
averted,” does not provide a basis for jurisdiction under §§
1291. Ibid. (quoting Van Cauwenberghe v. Biard, 486 U.S. 517,
529, 108 S.Ct. 1945, 100 L. Ed. 2d 517 (1988) (alteration in
Mohawk Indus. v. Carpenter, 558 U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 599, 605-06, 175 L. Ed. 2d 458, 466-67
(2009); see also Wilson v. O’Brien, 621 F.3d 641, 642 (7th Cir. 2010) (holding that the
implication of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mohawk Industries, was that “the collateral
order doctrine does not support an interlocutory appeal by a party to the litigation who
contends that the district judge erred in resolving a dispute about an evidentiary privilege
… [because] an appeal from the final decision suffices to deal with any error.”)
Here, defense counsel contends that the violence to the patient-therapist privilege
incurred by the discovery orders will be unreviewable on appeal, should Harris ultimately
be found competent to stand trial and subsequently convicted, because “[o]nce [Harris’s]
treatment records and information are disclosed in court, their privileged status can never be
fully restored.” The State maintains that there is nothing to “restore” because the patienttherapist “privilege disappeared either when [Harris] placed his competency at issue or when
the records were disclosed to all parties, without timely objection, on November 18, 2008.”
The Court of Special Appeals considered similar arguments when the case was presented to
it and noted:
We are not persuaded by appellant’s argument that once
his treatment records are disclosed, any privilege is lost and
unable to be restored. The records were, in fact, disclosed to the
State at the November 18, 2008 hearing following the circuit
court’s ruling. Arguably, the privilege has already been lost,
and appellant’s argument has been rendered moot.
Moreover the record reveals that no objection was made
to disclosure of the records to the State following the court’s
ruling, nor was any other relief sought.
The United States Supreme Court, when considering the “importance” of the attorneyclient privilege, declined to hold that orders adverse to the privilege were immediately
appealable under the collateral order doctrine stating “we routinely require litigants to wait
until after final judgment to vindicate valuable rights, including rights central to our
adversarial system.” Mohawk Industries, 558 U.S. at __, 130 S.Ct. at 606, 175 L. Ed. 2d at
467.22 The Supreme Court concluded:
In our estimation, postjudgment appeals generally suffice to
protect the rights of litigants and assure the vitality of the
attorney-client privilege. Appellate courts can remedy the
improper disclosure of privileged material in the same way they
remedy a host of other erroneous evidentiary rulings: by
vacating an adverse judgment and remanding for a new trial in
which the protected material and its fruits are excluded from
Mohawk Industries, 558 U.S. at __, 130 S.Ct. at 606-07, 175 L. Ed. 2d at 468; see e.g.,
Hudson, 402 Md. at 27, 935 A.2d at 400 (“It is a long established principle of appellate
The later point is somewhat misleading because Harris did request a stay of the
discovery orders on December 3, 2008 and the stay was granted on December 11, 2008.
Contrary to defense counsel’s assertion, Mohawk Industries is instructive, if not
binding, because it explores the meaning of the Cohen test, which we have obviously
incorporated into our case law, and because Mohawk Industries addresses appellate
jurisdiction over final decisions arising from 28 U.S.C. § 1291, which is read in pari materia
with § 12-301 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article. Sigma, 297 Md. at 664, 467
A.2d at 485 (citing Stewart v. State, 282 Md. 557, 571, 386 A.2d 1206 (1978) (stating “there
[is] no substantive difference between 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and the Maryland statute.”).
procedure, now embodied in Rule 8-131(d), that an appeal from a final judgment ordinarily
brings up for appellate review all [other] orders in the case.”). We hold that the discovery
orders here are not “effectively unreviewable” because if the privilege applies to the
treatment records as well as Dr. Patel’s testimony, and assuming Mr. Harris is ultimately
found competent to stand trial, is convicted, and then appeals his conviction, the issue of
whether privileged information was improperly disclosed at the competency determination
phase may be addressed at that time.
III. The Perlman Doctrine
Upon concluding that the collateral order doctrine did not apply, the Court of Special
Appeals dismissed Harris’s appeal without considering whether the trial judge’s ruling
denying his protective order was alternatively appealable under the Perlman doctrine. In
Perlman, the United States Supreme Court approved an interlocutory appeal of a denial of
a motion that challenged a discovery order on the basis of privilege.23 Perlman v. United
Very recently, the Tenth Circuit summarized Perlman stating:
In Perlman, the inventor of a device, Louis Perlman, testified on
behalf of his company in an infringement suit against Firestone
Tire & Rubber Company. 247 U.S. at 8. As part of his
testimony, Mr. Perlman submitted exhibits to the court. Id. Mr.
Perlman’s company ultimately sought to dismiss its suit without
prejudice, and the court granted the motion conditioned on the
exhibits being impounded in the custody of the court clerk. Id.
at 8-9. Thereafter, the United States initiated a grand jury
proceeding against Mr. Perlman and sought the exhibits from
the court clerk in support of the criminal investigation. Id. at 910. Mr. Perlman objected, but the court ordered the clerk to
States, 247 U.S. 7, 38 S. Ct. 417, 62 L. Ed. 950 (1918); see also United States v. Myers, 593
F.3d 338, 345 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Church of Scientology of Ca. v. United States, 506 U.S.
9, 18, 113 S.Ct. 447, 452, 121 L. Ed. 2d 313, 322, n.11 (1992)).
At the outset, we note that the basic premise of Perlman is inconsistent with Maryland
jurisprudence because: (1) generally discovery orders are not immediately appealable, Falik,
413 Md. at 177, 991 A.2d at 1243,24 and (2) if the issue is denial of a privilege, consistent
with our jurisprudence those issues also are not immediately appealable.25 Moreover, we are
produce them. Id. at 10-11. On Mr. Perlman’s appeal to the
Supreme Court, the United States argued that the order was
interlocutory and unreviewable. Id. at 12. The Supreme Court
disagreed, stating simply:
The second contention of the government is
somewhat strange, that is, that the order granted
upon its solicitation was not final as to Perlman
but interlocutory in a proceeding not yet brought
and depending upon it to be brought. In other
words, that Perlman was powerless to avert the
mischief of the order but must accept its incidence
and seek a remedy at some other time and in some
other way. We are unable to concur. Id. at 13.
In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10427 (10th
See generally Church of Scientology, 506 U.S. at 18, 113 S.Ct. at 452, 121 L. Ed.
2d at 322-23, fn. 11 (1992) (citing United States v. Ryan, 402 U.S. 530, 91 S.Ct. 1580, 29 L.
Ed. 2d 85 (1971)) (noting that Perlman is an exception to the general rule that a discovery
order is not immediately appealable unless the subject of the order refuses compliance, is
held in contempt, and then appeals the contempt order).
In Maryland, discovery orders challenged on the basis of privilege are not
not inclined to adopt and apply Perlman to these facts because: (1) it is questionable whether
Perlman survived the United State’s Supreme Court’s decision in Mohawk Industries; and
(2) we are not bound to adopt Perlman because it did not address a constitutional principle
that is binding on the State courts but rather addressed “a matter of federal court appellate
procedure.” See Dawkins v. Balt. City Police Dep’t, 376 Md. 53, 60, 827 A.2d 115, 119
(2003); see generally Fletcher v. Weir, 455 U.S. 603, 605, 102 S.Ct. 1309, 1311, 71 L. Ed.
immediately appealable final orders and the exceptions are rare and fact-specific. See
Ehrlich v. Grove, 396 Md. 550, 564-65, 914 A.2d 783, 792-93 (2007) (permitting
interlocutory appeal under the collateral order doctrine where “[t]he Governor of the State
of Maryland has asserted executive privilege … attorney-client privilege and the work
product doctrine” ); accord Johnson v. Clark, __ Md. App. __, __ A.2d __ (2011) (accepting
jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine of an appeal of a denial of a motion to quash
a deposition and/or a motion for protective order on the grounds of executive privilege and
the Morgan doctrine espoused in United States v. Morgan, 313 U.S. 409, 61 S. Ct. 999, 85
L. Ed. 1429 (1941), by which high-ranking government officials are not subject to
depositions with respect to their “mental processes in performing discretionary acts”); but
see Billman v. Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund Corporation, 312 Md. 128, 129, 538 A.2d
1172 (1988) (dismissing consolidated appeals presented “involving the privileges against
compulsory self-incrimination and the divulging of attorney-client communications”);
Kurstin, 191 Md. App. 124, 990 A.2d 594 (2010) (holding that a discovery order adverse to
the attorney-client privilege was not immediately appealable under the collateral order
doctrine or the categorical exclusion of Mohawk Industries).
Similarly, in the situations where discovery orders are aimed at probing the decision
making of high government officials, those orders have been immediately appealable under
the collateral order doctrine. St. Joseph’s, 392 Md. at 88, 896 A.2d at 311 (citing
Montgomery County v. Stevens, 337 Md. 471, 654 A.2d 877 (1995) (holding that a discovery
order for taking a deposition of and “administrative decision maker” and others during
judicial review of an administrative decision was immediately appealable) and Public Service
Comm’n v. Patuxent Valley, 300 Md. 200, 210, 477 A.2d 759, 764 (1984) (holding that under
the very unique facts of the case, the trial court’s discovery order permitting depositions of
commission members was appealable by the Commission or the State pursuant to the
collateral order doctrine)).
2d 490, 493 (1982) (“The principles which evolved on the basis of decisional law dealing
with appeals within the federal court system are not, of course, necessarily based on any
constitutional principle. Where they are not, the States are free to follow or to disregard them
so long as the state procedure as a whole remains consistent with due process of law.”); see
also Kurstin, 191 Md. App. at 131, 990 A.2d at 598 (recalling that an appeal of “an adverse
judicial decision… is not a constitutional right. It is only a grant of legislative grace.”) and
cases cited therein. Furthermore, to adopt and apply Perlman would require a determination
at this stage of the criminal proceedings that (1) the State is a disinterested third party; (2)
Petitioner has a privilege in his treatment records at Perkins, that has not been excluded by
the court under C.J.P § 9-109(d)(2) or that he has not introduced “his mental condition as an
element of his claim or defense” under C.J.P. § 9-109(d)(3) ; and (3) that the issue is
unreviewable after a final judgment on the merits.26
In Perlman, the privilege holder was “powerless” to protect his privilege because he
was not a party to the underlying grand jury proceeding, although he would have become a
The Ninth Circuit has very recently distilled the required factual underpinnings
preceding application of Perlman, stating:
Under Perlman, “a discovery order directed at a ‘disinterested
third-party custodian of privileged documents’ is immediately
appealable because the ‘third party, presumably lacking a
sufficient stake in the proceeding, would most likely produce the
documents rather than submit to a contempt citation.’
United States v. Krane, 625 F.3d 568, 572 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting United States v. Griffin,
440 F.3d 1138, 1143 (9th Cir. 2006) and cases cited therein.
party if ultimately indicted, presumably because of the successful introduction of the
privileged documents. Thus, the status of the custodian of the privileged documents and the
status of the privilege holder are paramount to a determination of whether the Perlman
doctrine provides appellate jurisdiction in a given case. Petitioner contends that we should
adopt the Perlman doctrine in this case as a basis for appellate jurisdiction contending that
the discovery orders issued to Perkins Hospital and to Dr. Patel, allegedly “disinterested
third-parties,” to disclose all of Harris’s medical records to the State were “final” orders, in
as much as they decided the issue of privilege, and as such this present appeal is the only way
to “protect privileged material in the hands of a non-party from unwarranted disclosure
before the privilege is irrevocably damaged.” Specifically, Petitioner contends that Perkins
Hospital is disinterested because: (1) it has no interest in protecting Harris’s patientpsychiatrist privilege; and (2) that while a State agency, Perkins Hospital is not affiliated
with the State’s Attorney’s Office, and is therefore “not remotely a party to this proceeding.”
The record reveals that at the time that the discovery orders were served on Harris’s treating
physician, Dr. Patel, and Harris’s treating hospital, Perkins Hospital, Harris was admitted,
as an in-patient, into Perkins Hospital for treatment for his mental condition.27 The State
Petitioner was committed by court order to the Department of Health and Mental
Hygiene on May 30, 2008 for purposes of the competency evaluation. At the competency
evaluation, Dr. Robinson diagnosed Harris with several mental disorders, which were the
focus of his subsequent treatment at Perkins. At the November 18th hearing on Petitioner’s
motion for a protective order, the Assistant Attorney General for DHMH explained to the
trial judge that this meant that while Harris did not “come to Perkins voluntarily,” he did
“consent to treatment on a voluntary basis.”
argues that “there is no need for this Court to make any expansion of the exceptions to the
final judgment rule” because “there is no nonparty or disinterested third party .…”
We note that Perlman is a narrowly applied doctrine.28 For example, the Seventh
Circuit observed in Wilson that “[o]nly when the person who asserts a privilege is a nonlitigant will an appeal from the final decision be inadequate[,”] otherwise “an appeal from
the final decision will allow review of the trial judge’s ruling.” Wilson, 621 F.3d at 643;
accord In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 616 F.3d 1172, 1179 (10th Cir. 2010) (holding that
Perlman applies only when an appeal “is sought by an intervenor who claims a justiciable
interest in preventing a third party’s disclosure of documents or testimony”); United States
v. Cuthbertson, 651 F.2d 189, 194 (3d Cir. 1981) (same). In addition, the Wilson court
observed that the evidentiary “privilege (if there is one) belongs to [the defendant]” and not
Maryland courts have cited Perlman at least four times, but the doctrine has never
been employed successfully to provide appellate jurisdiction. In Dep’t of Social Services v.
Stein, 328 Md. 1, 17, 612 A.2d 880, 888 (1992), Perlman did not apply because the “facts
of th[e] case [were] not consistent with those upon which the Supreme Court formulated an
exception to the Alexander rule [the Perlman doctrine]. The subpoenaed material [was] not
in the hands of a third party who could not be expected to subject him or herself to contempt
in order that the owner of the material may take an immediate appeal.” Stein, 328 Md. at 17,
612 A.2d at 888. In Sigma, we summarized Perlman but we did not employ it to conclude
that an order to quash a subpoena duces tecum was not an appealable final order. Sigma, 297
Md. at 672, 467 A.2d at 489. In In re Special Investigation No. 244, 296 Md. 80, 459 A.2d
1111 (1983), we cited but did not expressly rely upon Perlman in order to hold that a
discovery order was immediately appealable where “in the procedural setting of th[e] case
nothing remained before the court.” No. 244, 296 Md. at 84. 459 A.2d at 1113. Finally, in
Beckette v. State, 31 Md. App. 85, 89, 355 A.2d 515, 518 (1976) the Court of Special
Appeals cited Perlman for the proposition that “[c]ourt files, unless sealed by order of the
court, are properly viewable by any person[,]” which pertains to the facts of Perlman but not
to the nonparty asserting the privilege. Wilson, 621 F.3d at 643.
Furthermore, we are not persuaded to adopt Perlman because at least two federal
circuit courts of appeals have explicitly questioned whether Perlman is still good law. The
Tenth Circuit has said that “Mohawk Industries calls Perlman and its successors into
question, because, whether the order is directed against a litigant or a third party, an appeal
from the final decision will allow review of the district court’s ruling. Only when the person
who asserts a privilege is a non-litigant will an appeal from the final decision be inadequate.”
Wilson, 621 F.3d at 643; accord Krane, 625 F.3d at 573 (noting that Perlman applied
because “for all practical purposes, this appeal is [the non-party privilege holder’s] only
opportunity to seek review” of the orders adverse to his privilege); In re Subpoena Duces
Tecum Comm. Futures Trading, 439 F.3d 740 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (holding that Perlman
permitted an immediate appeal because the government had complied in part, and intended
to fully comply with a discovery order where records of trading activities of a non-party to
an underlying criminal suit were to be disclosed in contravention to a claim of privilege and
so its was the non-party’s “last chance to oppose the order”). Accordingly, the fact that
Harris is a party to the underlying litigation and therefore this is not his last opportunity for
appellate review weighs against application of the Perlman doctrine to the case sub judice.29
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has noted that “[t]he [United States]
Supreme Court, although it has not yet resolved the split among the Circuit Courts of Appeal,
has characterized Perlman as falling ‘within the ‘limited class of cases where denial of
immediate review would render impossible any review whatsoever of an individual’s
claims.’’” In the Matter of a Grand Jury Subpoena, 411 Mass. 489, 495, n.8 (Mass. 1992)
Additionally, the Seventh Circuit has said that “Perlman relied in part on a conclusion
that the rejection of an intervenor’s claim is ‘final’ with respect to the intervenor, a position
the Supreme Court rejected in DiBella v. United States, 369 U.S. 121 (1962), when the
intervenor is also a putative defendant. Although the Supreme Court has cited Perlman since
DiBella, it has not reconsidered how much of Perlman’s rationale survives.” In re Klein, 776
F.2d 628, 630 (7th Cir. 1985) (emphasis added) (holding that the Seventh Circuit will allow
interlocutory appeals, in accordance with its precedential opinions interpreting Perlman, in
the interest of judicial economy). Moreover, the Tenth Circuit has very recently noted that
“[w]e are aware of no case … that extends Perlman beyond criminal grand jury
proceedings.” In re: Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation, 2011 U.S. App.
LEXIS 10427 (10th Cir. 2011).
Even if we were to assume, without deciding, that Perkins Hospital is a disinterested
non-party to this litigation on the basis that the State has no interest in refusing to obey the
discovery orders and that Harris maintains a statutory patient-psychiatrist privilege in his
treatment records, we, nonetheless, would not be persuaded to adopt Perlman given the facts
of this case.30 Here, Harris’s claim to privilege in the records would be reviewable on appeal
(citing United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 691 (1974)).
See e.g., United States v. Williams Companies, Inc., 562 F.3d 387, 392 (D.C. Cir.
2009), stating: “[F]or purposes of determining jurisdiction, this court accepts as true an
allegation that the documents are privileged and that any privilege has not been waived,” or
excluded by the court under C.J.P. § 9-109(d)(2)-(3)(i) where a judge finds that an informed
after a final judgment on the merits. Presumably, at the, as yet unscheduled, competency
hearing, Harris would present “evidence on the record,” which the State could presumably
rebut, both parties would be culling their evidence from the admissible portions of the
treatment records and physician testimony. See Peaks v. State, __ Md. __, __ A.2d __ (2011)
(detailing the procedure and content of a competency hearing); accord Roberts v. State, 361
Md. 346, 356, 761 A.2d 885, 891 (2000) (“Once the accused alleges incompetency to stand
trial, a trial court is required to make a determination as to the accused’s competency to stand
trial based on the evidence on the record.”) (emphasis in original).
Post-trial, as with any other potential discovery order that Harris finds adverse to him,
if he is convicted, he may appeal the issue of the trial judge’s exercise of discretion or failure
to exercise discretion in denying his motion for a protective order. See generally Goldsmith
v. State, 337 Md. 112, 115, 651 A.2d 866, 868 (1995) (affirming the trial judge’s denial of
the defendant’s pretrial discovery request for the victim’s psychotherapy records maintained
by the victim’s private psychotherapist); Zaal v. State, 326 Md. 54, 88, 602 A.2d 1247, 1264
(1992) (reversing the trial judgment and remanding for “controlled access” to materials that
were requested by defendant where the discovery was not permitted and the trial judge’s
ruling was an abuse of discretion). The United States Supreme Court has held that the
exercise of discretion over such pretrial orders is paramount, stating: “[e]nforcement of a
patient has made communications during a court ordered exam and “the issue at trial involves
his mental or emotional disorder;” or in a criminal proceeding the patient has introduced “his
mental condition as an element of his claim or defense[.]”
pretrial subpoena duces tecum must necessarily be committed to the sound discretion of the
trial court since the necessity for the subpoena most often turns upon a determination of
factual issues.” Sigma, 297 Md. at 671, 467 A.2d at 488 (quoting Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 690,
94 S.Ct. 3090, 41 L. Ed. 2d 1039 (1974)).
Finally, further delay of these and similar proceedings cannot be tolerated, as Judge
Easterbrook pointed out for the Seventh Circuit in Klein:
When people may appeal any order enforcing a subpoena, it is
easy to oppose every subpoena and make broad claims …. The
claims are very hard to resolve, because they lack the focus on
particular documents and defenses that an adjudication in
contempt would produce. Win or lose, the appellants obtain
delay, which they may value highly. If they lose here, they can
always make more particular claims of privilege and try again.
In the meantime the targets are free, memories of other
witnesses are fading, evidence is disappearing … . Calendra v.
United States, 414 U.S. 338, 94 S.Ct. 613, 38 L. Ed. 2d 561
(1974), and Cobbledick v. United States, 309 U.S. 323, 60 S.Ct.
540, 84 L. Ed. 783 (1940), say in no uncertain terms that such
delay should not be tolerated.
Klein, 776 F.2d at 631. Harris’s interlocutory appeal, indeed, involves the type of piecemeal
litigation that is aimed at interrupting ongoing criminal proceedings. Sigma, 297 Md. at 665,
467 A.2d at 485. Accordingly, because Harris, a party and the alleged privilege holder, may
seek an appellate determination of the propriety of the discovery orders after a final
judgment, we are not inclined to take this opportunity to expand the pool of exceptions to our
final judgment rule by annexation of the Perlman doctrine.
JUDGMENT OF THE COURT
OF SPECIAL APPEALS
AFFIRMED. COSTS TO BE
PAID BY PETITIONER.
Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County
Case No. 02-K-08-000647
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS
September Term, 2010
LAMAR CORNELIUS HARRIS
STATE OF MARYLAND
Concurring Opinion by Adkins, J.
Filed: June 24, 2011
Although I agree with the majority’s ultimate decision in this case, I cannot embrace
its rationale because I think it unwisely departs from, and narrows, the Perlman doctrine. See
Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7, 38 S. Ct. 417 (1918). This doctrine, although
infrequently applied, is vital to ensure protection against disclosure of privileged information
when exceptional circumstances apply. I would not sacrifice it on the altar of judicial
I agree with the majority that, in general, courts disfavor immediate review of
discovery orders, instead preferring the subpoenaed party to submit to contempt if it wants
to protect the documents:
[W]hen an order of disclosure is directed against a person
whose legal interests are affected, that person has a means to
obtain appellate review: refuse to comply, be subjected to
sanctions in contempt, and then appeal from the sanctions. That
approach puts the objecting person's sincerity to the test by
attaching a price to the demand for immediate review. Only
serious and substantial disputes will interrupt the proceedings in
the district court.
Wilson v. O'Brien, 621 F.3d 641, 642–43 (7th Cir. 2010).
The heart of the Perlman doctrine is that certain third-party custodians, with no
personal interest in protecting confidentiality, will not hazard a contempt citation to protect
the rights of another party. In those situations, the privilege holder is “powerless to avert the
mischief of the order[.]” Perlman, 247 U.S. at 13, 38 S. Ct. at 419. See also In re Air Crash
at Belle Harbor, 490 F.3d 99, 106 (2nd Cir. 2007) (“It is impossible for such an appellant to
pursue the normal avenue of review—submission to contempt—because . . . that appellant
has not been required to do anything by the district court.”).
The Perlman doctrine thus evolved to provide extra protections for important
privileges against disclosure that, because of a third-party’s ambivalence or indifference,
would otherwise be violated. Under the Perlman doctrine, “a discovery order directed at a
disinterested third party is treated as an immediately appealable final order because the third
party presumably lacks a sufficient stake in the proceeding to risk contempt by refusing
compliance.” Church of Scientology v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 18 n.11, 113 S. Ct. 447,
452 n.11 (1992). In Perlman, a privilege holder had, as a condition to dismissal of a patent
infringement case, submitted exhibits to the clerk of the court, which were to be held under
seal. In a later grand jury investigation, then District Court Judge Learned Hand subpoenaed
that information, and Perlman, the privilege holder, moved to intervene. The Supreme Court
held that the denial of Perlman’s motion was immediately appealable. Perlman, 247 U.S.
at 12, 38 S. Ct. at 419.
Because the discussion in Perlman was limited, the doctrine has been perhaps better
defined in subsequent cases. Courts applying Perlman have relied, primarily, on the
unwillingness of certain third-party custodians to submit to contempt or otherwise protect the
documents. For example, in National Super Spuds v. New York Mercantile, 591 F.2d 174,
179 (2nd Cir. 1979), the Second Circuit described Perlman’s continuing justification as
it was unlikely that the third party [in Perlman] would risk a
contempt citation in order to allow immediate review of the
appellant's claim of privilege. In fact it was not only unlikely but
unimaginable. The only third party who could have helped
Perlman was the clerk of the District Court for the Southern
District of New York and we do not exactly see that clerk
defying an order of then District Judge Learned Hand in order
to assist the target of a grand jury perjury investigation.
(citing United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 691; 94 S. Ct. 3090, 3099 (1974)) (internal
quotations omitted). See also Burden-Meeks v. Welch, 319 F.3d 897, 899-900 (7th Cir. 2003)
(“The idea behind Perlman is that someone who is neither a party to the suit nor a person
aggrieved by the disclosure cannot be expected to put his own neck on the chopping block,
standing in contempt of court just to help the privilege holder obtain appellate review.”).
The majority seems to start off with a blanket rejection of Perlman as inconsistent
with our general law against immediate appeal of disclosure orders:
At the outset, we note that the basic premise of Perlman
is inconsistent with Maryland jurisprudence because: (1)
generally discovery orders are not immediately appealable, and
(2) if the issue is denial of a privilege, consistent with our
jurisprudence those issues also are not immediately appealable.
Majority slip op. at 25-26 (citation omitted). It is inconsistent, to be sure, but all exceptions
are inconsistent with the general rule, and the doctrine has been developed and recognized
by other courts as a necessary and desirable exception. Like other “exceptions,” the Perlman
doctrine allows a predictable but flexible system under which courts measure each case, in
its factual and procedural context.
The majority then summarily rejects Perlman:
[W]e are not inclined to adopt and apply Perlman to
these facts because: (1) it is questionable whether Perlman
survived the United State’s Supreme Court’s decision in
Mohawk Industries;1 and (2) we are not bound to adopt Perlman
because it did not address a constitutional principle that is
binding on the State courts but rather addressed “a matter of
federal court appellate procedure.
I am troubled by the majority’s suggestion that Perlman was effectively abolished by
Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Carpenter, 558 U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 599, 175 L. Ed. 2d 458 (2009).
In Mohawk, the Supreme Court considered whether a District Court’s order compelling an
employer to turn over documents that were subject to attorney-client privilege, was
immediately reviewable under the collateral order doctrine. The Supreme Court held that the
order was not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, concluding
immediate review was “not necessary to ensure effective review of orders adverse to the
attorney-client privilege[.]” Mohawk, 558 U.S. at __, 130 S. Ct. at 606, 175 L. Ed. 2d at 467.
One of the Court’s primary justifications for its conclusion that immediate review was
not necessary was the existence of other remedies. First, the Court concluded that a
postjudgment appeal was sufficient in most cases:
In our estimation, postjudgment appeals generally suffice to
protect the rights of litigants and assure the vitality of the
attorney-client privilege. Appellate courts can remedy the
improper disclosure of privileged material in the same way they
remedy a host of other erroneous evidentiary rulings: by
vacating an adverse judgment and remanding for a new trial in
which the protected material and its fruits are excluded from
Mohawk, 558 U.S. at. __, 130 S. Ct. at 606-07, 175 L. Ed. 2d at 468.
See Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Carpenter, 558 U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 599, 175 L. Ed. 2d
Second, the Court observed that, for cases when postjudgment review was not
sufficient, there were alternate routes. Relevant here, the Court discussed two “safety
valves” for a litigant wanting immediate review:
[L]itigants confronted with a particularly injurious or novel
privilege ruling have several potential avenues of review apart
from collateral order appeal. . . . . [I]n extraordinary
circumstances—i.e., when a disclosure order “amount[s] to a
judicial usurpation of power or a clear abuse of discretion,” or
otherwise works a manifest injustice—a party may petition the
court of appeals for a writ of mandamus. . . .
Another long-recognized option is for a party to defy a
disclosure order and incur court-imposed sanctions.
Mohawk, 558 U.S. at __, 130 S. Ct. at 607-08, 175 L. Ed. 2d at 469. Because these options
existed “for promptly correcting serious errors,” the Court was able to conclude that a general
rule of delayed review would not “imperil a substantial public interest” or “some particular
value of a high order.” Id. at __, 130 S. Ct. at 605, 175 L. Ed. 2d at 466.
Mohawk’s holding is thus conditioned on the existence of an alternate vehicle for
immediate appeal in extreme cases where postjudgment appeal is not adequate. Perlman is
such a vehicle. Indeed, Perlman’s primary justification is that the contempt route—perhaps
the most universal “safety valve” identified by the Mohawk Court—is not sufficient to protect
certain rights. I disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the Supreme Court’s approach
The Perlman Court also identified a statutory avenue for immediate appeal under 28
U.S.C. § 1292(b). Under that statute, a party may “ask the district court to certify, and the
court of appeals to accept, an interlocutory appeal” if certain conditions are met. Mohawk,
558 U.S. at __, 130 S. Ct. at 607, 175 L. Ed. 2d at 469.
in Mohawk, which was carefully constructed to preserve certain rights, should be interpreted
as foreclosing avenues of review not expressly mentioned.
Indeed, the other cases which the majority cites on this point do not reject Perlman,
but rather recognize a need for Perlman-like interlocutory appeals, if only in narrow
circumstances. For example, the majority cites, as analogous authority, the 7th Circuit’s
decision in In re Klein, 776 F.2d 628 (7th Cir. 1985). There, although the court observed that
the Supreme Court “has not reconsidered how much of Perlman’s rationale survives[,]” it
allowed the interlocutory appeal and reached the merits of the case. Klein, 776 F.2d at 630,
632. See also National Super Spuds, 591 F.2d at 179 (“[P]redictions of Perlman’s demise
would have been as exaggerated as those of Mark Twain’s.”). The majority’s other cited
cases merely emphasize that Perlman is a narrowly-applied doctrine. See, e.g., Wilson, 621
F.3d at 642 (Perlman appeal allowed “[o]nly when the person who asserts a privilege is a
For the reasons above, I disagree with the majority and conclude that Perlman
appeals, an exception to the general rule on appeal of discovery orders, serve an important
purpose. The majority broadly rejects the Perlman doctrine, without, I suggest, a full
analysis of the doctrine and its purpose. I submit that Perlman recognized a significant and
persisting problem with regard to third-party custodians of privileged documents.
Testimonial privileges serve important public interests3 and their protection depends
See, e.g., Swidler & Berlin v. United States, 524 U.S. 399, 403, 118 S. Ct. 2081, 2084
upon consistent and predictable judicial decision-making. As the Supreme Court has
explained, although in a different context:4
Making the promise of confidentiality contingent upon a trial
judge’s later evaluation of the relative importance of the
patient’s interest in privacy and the evidentiary need for
disclosure would eviscerate the effectiveness of the privilege.
[I]f the purpose of the privilege is to be served, the participants
in the confidential conversation “must be able to predict with
some degree of certainty whether particular discussions will be
protected. An uncertain privilege, or one which purports to be
certain but results in widely varying applications by the courts,
is little better than no privilege at all.
Jaffee v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1, 17-18, 116 S. Ct. 1923, 1932 (1996) (citations omitted). In
exceptional circumstances, like Perlman and its progeny, appellate review of an order
requiring disclosure of alleged privileged information is necessary.
My view does not mean that Harris is entitled to a Perlman appeal. Harris has pled
incompetency, and accordingly he has no privilege with respect to his psychiatric records.
Under Maryland Code, (1973, 2006 Repl. Vol), Section 9-109(d)(3) of the Courts and
(1998) (quoting Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383, 389, 101 S. Ct. 677 (1981) (“The
[attorney-client] privilege is intended to encourage ‘full and frank communication between
attorneys and their clients and thereby promote broader public interests in the observance of
law and the administration of justice.’”); Jaffee v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1, 11, 116 S. Ct. 1923,
1929 (1996) (“The psychotherapist privilege serves the public interest by facilitating the
provision of appropriate treatment for individuals suffering the effects of a mental or
emotional problem. The mental health of our citizenry, no less than its physical health, is a
public good of transcendent importance.”).
The Court made these comments in the context of “reject[ing] the balancing
component of the privilege implemented by [the Seventh Circuit] and a small number of
States.” Jaffee, 518 U.S. at 17, 116 S. Ct. at 1932.
Judicial Proceedings Article, a person has no privilege with respect to use of psychiatric
testimony or records in a court proceeding if he has put his mental health at issue.5 An
immediate appeal is not necessary to protect Harris’s rights, because he has waived those
rights through his pleading.
Accordingly, I would leave open the potential for relief in more extreme
circumstances, and affirm the Circuit Court on the narrower grounds described above.
This section states: “There is no privilege [for psychiatric records] if . . . [t]he patient
introduces his mental condition as an element of his claim or defense[.]” Maryland Code,
(1973, 2006 Repl. Vol), § 9-109(d)(3) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article.
Petitioner Lamar Harris was charged with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. Court proceedings had stalled in the preliminary stages due to a disagreement about the propriety of the trial judge's pretrial rulings ordering discovery of certain records and testimony pertaining to Harris's court-ordered competency evaluation and in-patient treatment at hospital. Harris sought review on the merits regarding the trial judge's denial of Harris's motion for a protective order resulting from service of subpoenas on one of Harris's treating physicians and the hospital. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals, holding (1) the issue of whether privileged information was improperly disclosed at the competency determination phase may be addressed after Harris is convicted; and (2) because Harris may seek an appellate determination of the propriety of the discovery orders after a final judgment, there was no reason to expand the pool of exceptions to the court's final judgment rule.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email