State Statutes Providing for a Right to Counsel in Civil Cases
Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, p. 245, July-August 2006
26 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2010
Date Written: 2006
The hundreds of federal and state statutes providing for a right to counsel in various types of civil cases deserve more attention than they have received. This article constitutes the first attempt to catalogue them. Most states have a right to counsel in some sort of family matters, such as representation for parents and/or children in cases concerning abuse and neglect or termination of parental rights. Some states also have a right to counsel in certain proceedings concerning domestic violence, divorces and annulments, private petitions to terminate parental rights or for adoption, paternity, child custody, or child support. Many states guarantee the right to counsel for people facing involuntary institutionalization for mental illness, alcohol or drug intoxication, or disease quarantine. Some states guarantee counsel to people subject to involuntary sterilization or vaccination, or to minors seeking a judicial bypass of a requirement that they notify or obtain the consent of a parent before undergoing an abortion.
The article also discusses the conditions that must be in place in order for a right to counsel to be effective, including: a) appointed counsel must have adequate experience and training; b) appointed counsel must fulfill particular duties; c) appointed counsel must be assigned only as many cases as they can competently handle; d) appointed counsel must be independent of the appointing authority; e) appointed counsel must be adequately compensated; f) counsel must be appointed early enough in a particular proceeding; and g) the appointment process must be uniform throughout a particular state.
Keywords: right to counsel, civil gideon, federal statutes, state statutes, appointed counsel, custody rights, family law, civil cases, state courts, access to justice
JEL Classification: I3, K1, K4, I18, J18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation