Allen v. Ortez

In Allen v. Ortez, 802 P.2d 1307, 1311 (Utah 1990), the Court reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of a clinical social worker who had sent letters to a mayor and a domestic-relations commissioner, alleging that a child's mother and stepfather had sexually molested the child. 802 P.2d at 1308. The mother had previously filed a petition to modify her custody and visitation rights. Believing the child to have been abused, the child's father solicited the letters detailing the social worker's affirming conclusions. The Court held that the social worker was ineligible for the privilege because she failed to satisfy its third element: when she made her statements, she was not, as a matter of law, acting as a witness in a judicial proceeding. For purposes of the privilege, a witness must be more than a person with sufficient expertise in or knowledge of a matter to be of some potential benefit. The Court was troubled that a contrary view would permit individuals, on their own initiative, to "direct libelous communications to a participant or decision maker in a litigation with impunity." Id. at 1313. The judicial system, even when broadly defined, "does not demand such license." Id.