SCOTUS Rules Civil Defendants Not Entitled to Lawyer

In a civil contempt case against a South Carolina father, Michael Turner, was sentenced to 12 months in jail for being $5,728 in arrears on child support. In a majority opinion, the Court found that an indigent defendant who faces jail for failure to pay child support does not have an automatic right to have counsel appointed in the same way a criminal defendant does. The constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases isĀ part of the constitutional right to fair trial.

The Court also noted that to create such a requirement would create an imbalance in representation and put the other parent at a disadvantageĀ if the other parent was unable to afford counsel. Critics of the decision claim that it endorses use of debtors’ prison in the United States.