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Commonwealth v. Parker

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 24, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
CARL H. PARKER Appellant

         Appeal from the Order Entered February 9, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-41-CR-0001476-2015

          BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., SHOGAN, J., and FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

          OPINION

          GANTMAN, P.J.

         Appellant, Carl H. Parker, purports to appeal from the order entered in the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas, which denied his pretrial motion in limine for the production of the complainant's medical, psychological, psychiatric, and therapy records. For the following reasons, we quash the appeal.

         The relevant facts and procedural history of this case are as follows. The Commonwealth arrested and charged Appellant with numerous sex offenses as a result of allegations that he committed these various offenses against C.P., a minor, between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013. At the time of the offenses, C.P. was fifteen and sixteen years old; and Appellant was married to C.P.'s mother. Around the same time, C.P. was also receiving psychological support therapy. C.P. reported the alleged sexual abuse on January 15, 2015.

         On November 10, 2016, Appellant filed a motion in limine, including a motion for production of C.P.'s medical, psychological, psychiatric and therapy records. The trial court held a hearing on November 18, 2016, on Appellant's various motions in limine, including the motion for production. The trial court denied Appellant's motions on February 8, 2017. Appellant filed a notice of appeal on March 8, 2017. No concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) was ordered or filed.

         Appellant raises two issues for our review:

WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENSE REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF MEDICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, PSYCHIATRIC, AND THERAPY RECORDS OF [VICTIM][?]
WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN DETERMINING THAT THE MEDICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, PSYCHIATRIC, AND THERAPY RECORDS SOUGHT BY [APPELLANT] WERE NOT RELEVANT TO ANY OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE CRIMES CHARGED[?]

(Appellant's Brief at 4).

         As a prefatory matter, we must determine whether this appeal is properly before us. In Appellant's response to this Court's rule to show cause why the appeal should not be quashed, Appellant argues his defense motion in limine for the production of C.P.'s medical, psychological, psychiatric, and therapy records qualifies as a collateral matter; and the order denying that request is immediately reviewable as a collateral order. Specifically, Appellant argues the denial of his motion for production is separate from and collateral to the issue of whether Appellant is guilty of the charged sex offenses. Appellant claims he has a right to favorable evidence and to confront his accuser, which outweighs C.P.'s interest in the non-disclosure of her confidential records. Appellant asserts that without access to the potentially exculpatory evidence contained in C.P.'s records, his defense will be irreparably lost because it rests on C.P.'s credibility, her delay in reporting, and her reason for the delay. Appellant submits an in camera review of C.P.'s records would remove concerns for C.P.'s privilege and privacy, and allow Appellant to prepare a proper defense. Appellant concludes the court's order denying Appellant's access to this confidential information is immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine. We disagree.

         Appellate review of any "court order is a jurisdictional question defined by rule or statute." Commonwealth v. Rosario, 615 A.2d 740, 742 (Pa.Super. 1992), affirmed, 538 Pa. 400, 648 A.2d 1172 (1994). This principle applies to appellate review of a pretrial order. Commonwealth v. Jones, 826 A.2d 900, 903 (Pa.Super. 2003) (en banc). A court may consider the issue of jurisdiction sua sponte. Commonwealth v. Grove, ___A.3d___, 2017 PA Super 286 (2017) (citing Commonwealth v. Ivy, 146 A.3d 241, 255 (Pa.Super. 2016)). In evaluating our jurisdiction to allow Appellant's appeal, we look to other criminal cases involving appeals of pretrial orders. Id.

The general rule in criminal cases is that a defendant may appeal only from a final judgment of sentence, and an appeal from any prior order or judgment will be quashed. In this Commonwealth, an appeal may only be taken from: 1) a final order or one certified by the trial court as final; 2) an interlocutory order ...

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