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Notable Cases

This chart is the result of ongoing, painstaking research into how each jurisdiction subject to the United States Constitution handles the issue of appointment of counsel for indigent civil litigants facing incarceration.  If you know of any inaccuracy, please email me and let me know (providing a citation if possible).

The following states are required to appoint counsel for indigent civil litigants facing incarceration at an enforcement hearing as a result of litigation (state or federal):

Jurisdiction

Authority

Alaska

Otton v. Zaborac, 525 P.2d 537 (Alaska 1974) (State),

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386, 1389 (9th Cir. 1973) (Federal) See also, 15-12-20, Ala.Code (1975)

Arizona

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386 (9th Cir.1973)

Arkansas

United States v. Anderson, 553 F.2d 1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 1977) (Federal), See also, Burrell v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Servs., 850 S.W.2d 8 (Ark. App. 1993) (holding that a defendant is not guaranteed the right to appointed counsel in paternity actions because the defendant's physical liberty is not in jeopardy)

California

County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.App.4th 1686, 5 Cal.Rptr.2d 7 (1992) (state), Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386, 1389 (9th Cir. 1973) (Federal)

Colorado

Padilla v. Padilla, 645 P.2d 1327 (Colo.App.1982) (State), Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181 (10th Cir.App. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1061, 106 S.Ct. 805, 88 L.Ed.2d 781 (1986) (Federal)

Connecticut

Lake v. Speziale, 580 F.Supp. 1318 (D.Conn.1984)

Delaware

Black v. Division of Child Support Enforcement, 686 A.2d 164,(Del. 1996) corrected, (Dec. 18, 1996)

Guam

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386 (9th Cir.1973) (Federal)

Hawaii

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386 (9th Cir.1973) (Federal)

Idaho

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386, 1389 (9th Cir. 1973) (Federal), Camp v. East Fork Ditch Co., Ltd., 55 P.3d 304 (Idaho, 2002) (State)

Illinois

Sanders v. Shephard, 185 Ill.App.3d 719, 133 Ill.Dec. 712, 541 N.E.2d 1150 (1989)

Indiana

In re Marriage of Stariha, 509 N.E.2d 1117 (Ind.App. 1987)

Iowa

McNabb v. Osmundson, 315 N.W.2d 9 (Iowa 1982)

 Kansas

Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181 (10th Cir.App. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1061, 106 S.Ct. 805, 88 L.Ed.2d 781 (1986) (Federal), Johnson v. Johnson, 721 P.2d 290, 294 (Kan. Ct. App. 1986)

 Kentucky

Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262 (6th Cir.1984)

 Louisiana

State v. Broussard, 490 So.2d 273 (La. 1986), Ridgeway v. Baker (State), 720 F.2d 1409 (5th Cir. 1983) (Federal)

 Maryland

Rutherford v. Rutherford, 296 Md. 347, 464 A.2d 228 (1983)

Michigan

Mead v. Batchlor, 435 Mich. 480, 460 N.W.2d 493 (1990), overruling Sword v. Sword, 249 N.W.2d 88 (Mich. 1976) (states) Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262 (6th Cir.1984) (Federal)

Minnesota

Cox v. Slama, 355 N.W.2d 401 (Minn.1984) (state), United States v. Anderson, 553 F.2d 1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 1977) (Federal) 

Mississippi

Ridgeway v. Baker, 720 F.2d 1409 (5th Cir. 1983)

Missouri

Hunt v. Moreland, 697 S.W.2d 326 (Mo.App. 1985) (state), United States v. Anderson, 553 F.2d 1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 1977) (Federal)

Montana

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386 (9th Cir.1973)

Nebraska

Allen v. Casady, 511 N.W.2d 125, 127 (Neb. 1994) (state),  United States v. Anderson, 553 F.2d 1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 1977) (Federal)

 Nevada

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386 (9th Cir.1973) (Federal)

New Mexico

Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181 (10th Cir.App. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1061, 106 S.Ct. 805, 88 L.Ed.2d 781 (1986) (Federal), overturning State ex rel. Dep't of Human Services v. Rael, , 97 N.M. 640, 642 P.2d 1099 (1982) (Rael was decided on Sixth Amendment grounds and was been criticized harshly in New Mexico academic journals prior to the federal court's 1985 ruling in Walker).  See Fathers Behind Bars: the Right to Counsel in Civil Contempt Proceedings, New Mexico Law Review, 14 NMLR 275 (1984).

 New York

People ex rel. Lobenthal, 516 N.Y.S.2d 928, N.Y.A.D. (1 Dept., 1987)

 North Carolina

McBride v. McBride, 334 N.C. 124, 431 S.E.2d 14 (1993) overruling Jolly v. Wright, 265 S.E.2d 135 (N.C. 1980)

 North Dakota

North Dakota v. Gruchalla, 467 N.W.2d 451, 453 (N.D. 1991) (state),  United States v. Anderson, 553 F.2d 1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 1977) (Federal)

 Ohio

Mastin v. Fellerhoff, 526 F.Supp. 969 (S.D.Ohio 1981), Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262 (6th Cir.1984) (Federal)

 Oklahoma

Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181 (10th Cir.App. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1061, 106 S.Ct. 805, 88 L.Ed.2d 781 (1986) (Federal)

 Oregon

Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386 (9th Cir.1973)

 South Dakota

United States v. Anderson, 553 F.2d 1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 1977) (Federal)

 Tennessee

Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262 (6th Cir.1984)

 Texas

See, e.g., Ex Parte Goodman, 742 S.W.2d 536, 539 (Tex. App. 1987),  Ridgeway v. Baker, 720 F.2d 1409 (5th Cir. 1983) (Federal)

 Utah

Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181 (10th Cir.App. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1061, 106 S.Ct. 805, 88 L.Ed.2d 781 (1986) (Federal)

 Vermont

Choiniere v. Brooks, 163 Vt 625 (1995)

 Washington, DC

Olevsky v. District of Columbia, 548 A.2d 78 (D.C.1988)

 Washington

Tetro v. Tetro, 86 Wash.2d 252, 544 P.2d 17 (1975) (state), Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386 (9th Cir.1973) (Federal)

 West Virginia

Smoot v. Dingess, 236 S.E.2d 468, 471 (W. Va. 1975)

 Wisconsin

Brotzman v. Brotzman, 91 Wis.2d 335, 283 N.W.2d 600 (Wis.Ct.App.1979), State v. Pultz, 556 N.W.2d 708 (Wis.,1996).

 Wyoming

Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181 (10th Cir.App. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1061, 106 S.Ct. 805, 88 L.Ed.2d 781 (1986) (Federal)

 

The following states appoint counsel for indigent contemnors, but not as a result of litigation:

Jurisdiction

Authority / Current status

Florida

In spite of case law that holds that the appointment of counsel is not constitutionally required, the Office of the Public Defender provides representation at Ability to Pay hearings.  See, Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.840(a).

         Massachusetts

No suit or statute; appointed "as a matter of right" by trial courts. As a result, no published case law addresses the issue. See attached affidavit of David Grossack, Esq.

 

           The following states either do not appoint counsel, or do not do so consistently:

 

Status / Authority

 

New Jersey

Inconsistent case law.

In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of D.L., 351 N.J.Super. 77 (App.Div. 2002) (Appointing appellate counsel in a civil proceeding) but see Scalchi v. Scalchi, 347 N.J.Super. 493 (App.Div. 2002) (affirming denial of appointment of counsel on Sixth Amendment grounds)

Pennsylvania

Inconsistent case law; some counties do appoint counsel, others do not

Commonwealth v. $9847.00 U.S. Currency, 161 Pa.Cmwlth. 548, 637 A.2d 736 (App.Div. 1994);  Commissioner v. Farmer, 466 A.2d 677, 319 Pa.Super. 542 (App.Div. 1983).  Note: The Pittsburgh ACLU is filing suit over this issue within the next month. See attached new item on the issue.

Virginia

Inconsistent; some counties do appoint counsel, others do not

Kreiger v. Commonwealth, 38 Va.App. 569(August 2002), a recent 5-4 decision from the Court of Appeals en banc, holds that due process does not require the appointment of counsel on appeal, however a directive from the Virginia Supreme Court instructs trial courts that they have the discretion as to whether they should appoint counsel.  As a result, some counties routinely appoint counsel, others do not.  See attached affidavit of Mary K. Martin, Esq.

New Hampshire

Does not appoint counsel

Duval v. Duval, 114 N.H. 422 (1974).  This matter was decided seven years prior to Lassiter but apparently no post-Lassiter challenge has been brought.  But see In Re Shelby R., 148 N.H. 237 (2002) finding that State Constitution requires the appointment of counsel to an indigent accused of abuse or neglect under Child Protection Act, and finding statute prohibiting appointment of counsel for accused stepparent invalid.

 

Revel Fowler v.
Cassandra Ricks
FD-11-1106-07

Under these circumstances, does the Welfare Cap / Child Exclusion / Assignment of Child Support violate the “taking clause” of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, paragraph 20 of the New Jersey Constitution?

Jeff Golden, et al v.
Hon. Richard Codey,
et. al MER-L-1870-05

This suit sought to block the appointment of Marianne Espinosa from taking the oath of office as a Judge of the Superior Court as a result of the Senate Judiciary Committee's violation of Rule 12:b(3).

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