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Minnesota Supreme Court Protects Sex Assault Victims’ Privacy Rights

The Minnesota Supreme Court recently reinforced the privacy rights of sexual abuse victims.  In In re Hope Coalition, the court held that a criminal defendant’s interest in obtaining the records of a sexual assault victim’s counselor for the purposes of developing his defense did not overcome a statutory protection in Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(k), which “creates a privilege for sexual assault counselors.”   In sum, the court held that the statutory privacy protection “cannot be pierced in criminal proceedings without the victim’s consent.”  The statute did “not permit disclosure of privileged records in a criminal proceeding, even for in camera...
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Minnesota Court of Appeals Decides Privacy Case

In Smallwood v. State, A21-0001 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 23, 2021), the court of appeals decided several issues effecting privacy claims. The case concerned a hacker accessing a Minnesota Department of Human Services e-mail account. Smallwood, who was civilly committed to the state sex-offender program as a sexually dangerous person, was informed that his private information may have been accessed. He sued the state arguing that this caused him emotional and economic harm. Smallwood’s first claim against the state was for violation of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. The district court dismissed this claim at the outset for failing...
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Genetic Testing

In recent years there has been an interest in genetic testing. For $100 or more, you can have your DNA tested for genetic health risks including late onset Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The testing determines whether you are a carrier for over 40 different conditions. The test results are confidential, unless you share the test results with your physician or health care providers. If you share the information, the information may become part of your medical record and ultimately accessible by other health care providers, insurance companies, etc. While there are safeguards in place at the state and federal level...
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Henrietta Lacks, Oprah, Science and the Right of Privacy

Oprah’s HBO movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, based on the New York Times bestseller, highlights the issues between ethics, race, medicine and the right of privacy. Henrietta Lacks, a poor, black, cancer-stricken woman had tissue taken from her without her consent in the 1950’s. Her cells, known as HeLa, became an important part in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping and have been used in the medical field since the early 1950’s for medical research. For years her own family had no idea her cells were being used in this...
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Federal Real ID Laws in Minnesota

Minnesota is one of the last states out of compliance with the Federal Real ID Law which sets minimum security standards for state issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The deadline to come into compliance is early 2018. If Minnesota fails to come into compliance, Minnesotans risk losing access to commercial aircrafts and to federal and military facilities. While there are issues of privacy, the primary issue in the legislature appears to be the requirement to prove citizenship. Republicans generally oppose providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Democrats argue having to prove citizenship would prevent undocumented immigrants from getting even...
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