Dependency of QLM v. DSHS

Citation105 Wash.App. 532,20 P.3d 465
Decision Date28 March 2001
Docket NumberNo. 48026-0-I.,48026-0-I.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
PartiesIn re the DEPENDENCY OF Q.L.M., Respondent, v. STATE of Washington, DEPARTMENT of SOCIAL and HEALTH SERVICES, Appellant.

David J.W. Hackett, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Michael W. Collins, Asst. Attorney General, Seattle, for Appellant.

Susan J. Craighead, Public Defender Assoc., Isaac S. Stevens, SCRAP, Seattle, for Respondent.


When the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has custody of a juvenile offender who appears to be a sexually violent predator, the predator statute requires DSHS to forward all psychological evaluation and treatment records to the prosecutor to consider filing a predator petition. Q.L.M. is both a dependent child and juvenile sex offender who participated in sexually aggressive youth (SAY) evaluations through the dependency court. When DSHS planned to release the SAY evaluations to the prosecutor, the dependency court enjoined the release, finding Q.L.M. had an equitable interest in confidentiality. Because it is well settled that courts will not grant equitable relief in contravention of a statutory requirement, Q.L.M. had no clear legal or equitable right to confidentiality in the SAY evaluations, and the trial court erred in issuing an injunction barring DSHS from complying with the statute. We reverse.


Q.L.M., now 16, has been a dependent child since 1996. In 1999 when placement with Q.L.M.'s extended family became impossible, DSHS asked the dependency court to order a SAY evaluation to determine placement and treatment for him.1 Q.L.M. participated in the evaluation. Two months later, the dependency court relied on State v. Decker, 68 Wash.App. 246, 842 P.2d 500 (1992)2 to enter a protective order regarding that evaluation. In addition to granting use immunity for information about unadjudicated crimes, the court's order provided that any information from the evaluation "shall not be disseminated to the King County Prosecutor" and limited dissemination within DSHS to the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

In April 2000, Q.L.M. was living in a group placement through DSHS when he committed unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation and two fourth degree assaults with sexual motivation against girls in the group home. He pled guilty and participated in another evaluation to determine if he was eligible for a special sex offender disposition alternative (SSODA). In October 2000, the court entered a manifest injustice disposition committing Q.L.M. to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) for 36 weeks.

In anticipation of Q.L.M.'s release, the dependency court ordered a second SAY evaluation, followed it with another Decker order covering this evaluation, and DSHS referred his case to the End of Sentence Review Board. The Board reviewed the case and referred it to the King County Prosecutor's Office to consider filing a sexually violent predator petition. DSHS released most of its materials on Q.L.M. to the prosecutor. Although DSHS also intended to release the SAY evaluations, it gave Q.L.M.'s dependency counsel the opportunity to challenge the release.

Q.L.M. then sought injunctive relief in the dependency court to prevent DSHS from releasing the SAY evaluations and to forbid the prosecutor from using, considering or disseminating any other documents from the dependency proceedings. Counsel from both Q.L.M.'s dependency proceedings and his most recent criminal case filed affidavits stating that they were unaware that juveniles were subject to sexually violent predator commitment and had not warned Q.L.M. that SAY evaluations could be used in such a proceeding. The King County Prosecutor's Office was allowed to intervene in the dependency for purposes of contesting the requested injunction.3

The court issued an injunction prohibiting release of the SAY evaluations but allowed the prosecutor access to the other dependency records. The court rejected Q.L.M.'s constitutional and statutory arguments, but ruled that he had an equitable right to confidentiality.

The King County Prosecutor and DSHS appeal. The prosecutor moved for accelerated review because it asserts a need to consider the information in the SAY evaluations to decide whether to file a sexually violent predator petition before Q.L.M.'s release. A commissioner of this court granted the motion. We heard oral argument on an accelerated basis and issued an order reversing the trial court. This opinion follows.


Detention of a sexually violent predator is a civil proceeding.4 The Legislature has included juvenile sex offenders in the group subject to commitment as sexually violent predators.5 If DSHS has a juvenile offender in custody who is about to be released and appears to be a sexually violent predator, the Department must refer the case to the prosecuting attorney in the county in which the juvenile was charged.6 In such a case, the statute requires that DSHS, as the referring agency, "shall provide the prosecutor with all relevant information including ..." [a]ll records relating to the psychological or psychiatric evaluation and/or treatment of the person[.]7

Q.L.M. sought an injunction prohibiting DSHS from forwarding the SAY evaluations to the prosecutor. A party seeking injunctive relief must establish: (1) a clear legal or equitable right; (2) a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of that right; and (3) that the acts complained of are either resulting in or will result in actual and substantial injury to that party.8 The question whether or not to grant an injunction is addressed to the discretion of the trial court in accordance with the circumstances of each case .9 The decision exercising that discretion will be upheld unless it is based upon untenable grounds, is manifestly unreasonable, or is arbitrary.10

Q.L.M. argued in the trial court that he had statutory, constitutional, and equitable rights to prevent the release of all dependency materials. Even though the court rejected the majority of Q.L.M.'s arguments and was aware of the statute mandating release of the records for use in predator filings, it nonetheless found an equitable right to prevent release of the SAY evaluations.

His equitable right to the confidentiality of these records is based on the fact that a child in [Q.L.M.'s] position would have no idea that the SAY evaluations could be used for the purpose of filing a sexual predator petition, nor has there been any showing that he was advised by agents of the state of the potential use of these evaluations. A child who was advised by his attorneys that he should fully participate in the evaluations because he could get in no more trouble is entitled to rely on that implicit assurance. This reasonable reliance creates an equitable right to the confidentiality of these records. As a matter of fundamental fairness, this Court cannot ignore [Q.L.M.'s] reliance on the confidentiality of these evaluations.11

The State relies on the well-settled rule that courts "will not give relief on equitable grounds in contravention of a statutory requirement" to argue that the injunction was contrary to law.12 We agree that, because there is no statutory or constitutional basis for the order, it cannot be upheld.

Q.L.M. relies on King v. Riveland.13 In that case, the Washington State Supreme Court held the equitable doctrine of promissory estoppel compelled the State to honor confidentiality agreements it had reached with inmates participating in sex offender treatment. When the Department of Corrections (DOC) instituted the Sex Offender Treatment Program in 1988, it asked participants to sign confidentiality agreements. In 1990, DOC revised the confidentiality agreements to warn inmates that the materials would not be confidential if the prosecutor considered a sexual predator filing. When DOC sought to apply the new policy retroactively, inmates who had been in the program before 1990 sought injunctive relief to prohibit DOC from violating the original confidentiality agreements. The trial court granted relief on the theory that the original agreement was an enforceable contract.

The Supreme Court rejected this theory, but found the confidentiality agreement enforceable under the equitable theory of promissory estoppel.14 The Court rejected DOC's argument that enforcing the agreement would violate the sexual predator statutes. In so holding, the Court interpreted an earlier version of RCW 71.09.025 which did not require release of treatment records. After examining the legislative history, it concluded that the records were not within the scope of the statute. Thus, as interpreted by the Court, there was no conflict between the statutory mandate of RCW 71.09.025 and equitable enforcement of the confidentiality agreement.

One year after the King, 130 Wash.2d 517, 925 P.2d 606 (1996) decision, the Legislature amended RCW 71.09.025 to require release of additional information. The amendment added the language at issue here, directing that the referring agency "shall" forward "[a]ll records relating to the psychological or psychiatric evaluation and/or treatment of the person" to the prosecutor.15 This is a clear expression of the Legislature's intent to overrule the result in King.16 As we noted above, equity cannot contravene a constitutional statute. Because Q.L.M. has not demonstrated that RCW 71.09.025 is unconstitutional, the statutory provision must prevail.17 For this same reason other theories of equity, such as equitable estoppel, do not help Q.L.M. either.18

Q.L.M. has renewed the statutory arguments he made to the trial court. Like that court, we are not persuaded. First he argues that the release of his SAY evaluations conflicts with the policy of confidentiality in the dependency and child welfare statutes. Thus, he argues, this court must construe RCW 71.09.025 to harmonize its...

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14 cases
  • Michel-Garcia v. State (In re Dependency A.m.-S.), 79364-1-I (consolidated with Nos. 79365-9 & 79366-7)
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • December 16, 2019 he can engage in evaluations and treatment.¶7 The court analyzed two cases on which Michel-Garcia relied— In re Dependency of Q.L.M., 105 Wash. App. 532, 20 P.3d 465 (2001), and In re Dependency of J.R.U.-S., 126 Wash. App. 786, 110 P.3d 773 (2005) —and found neither case applicable. The......
  • In re A.M.-S.
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • October 22, 2020
    ...Decker beyond the specific facts of that case; in fact, published opinions have explicitly refused to do so. In re Dependency of Q.L.M. , 105 Wash. App. 532, 544, 20 P.3d 465 (2001) (" Decker created a single narrow exception to the normal rule that granting immunity is a prosecutorial exec......
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    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • April 11, 2005
    ...Thus, the immunity granted in Decker actually included both use and derivative use immunity. ¶ 24 The orders at issue in In re Dependency of Q.L.M. also granted "use immunity." Although the precise nature of that immunity was not at issue, the opinion indicates that the Q.L.M. court regarde......
  • Michel-Garcia v. State (In re Dependency of A.M.-S.), 79364-1-I
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    • December 16, 2019 so he can engage in evaluations and treatment. The court analyzed two cases on which Michel-Garcia relied—In re Dependency of Q.L.M., 105 Wn. App. 532, 20 P.3d 465 (2001), and In re Dependency of J.R.U.-S., 126 Wn. App. 786, 110 P.3d 773 (2005)—and found neither case applicable. The co......
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