Mississippi finally authorizes appointment of counsel in termination of parental rights cases
While a state may have many statutes, court decisions, or court rules governing appointment of counsel for a particular subject area, a "Key Development" is a statute/decision/rule that prevails over the others (example: a state high court decision finding a categorical right to counsel in guardianships cases takes precedence over a statute saying appointment in guardianship cases is discretionary).
04/18/2016, Legislation, Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Birth Parents
In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a law authorizing youth court judges to appoint counsel for parents in termination of parental rights cases. Until 2016, Mississippi was the only state that did not authorize appointment of counsel for parents in such cases (and the vast majority of states require appointment).
The relevant new provisions are:
- Miss. Code §§ 43-21-201(2): "If the court determines that a parent or guardian who is a party in an abuse, neglect or termination of parental rights proceeding is indigent, the youth court judge may appoint counsel to represent the indigent parent or guardian in the proceeding."
- Miss. Code § 99-18-13(2): "The State Defender may provide representation to parents or guardians who have been determined by the youth court judge to be indigent and in need of representation in an abuse, neglect or termination of parental rights proceeding or appeal therefrom. Representation may be provided by staff or contract counsel including, but not limited to, by contract with legal services organizations."
- Miss. Code 93-15-113(b): in a termination of parental rights case, “If an indigent parent does not have counsel, the court shall determine whether the parent is entitled to appointed counsel under the Constitution of the United States, the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, or statutory law and, if so, appoint counsel for the parent and then continue the hearing for a reasonable time to allow the parent to consult with the appointed counsel. The setting of fees for court-appointed counsel and the assessment of those fees are in the discretion of the court.”
The new law follows on the heels of several reports supporting the establishment of a right to counsel for parents, such as a report from the Hancock County Youth Court Task Force and pilot projects that have measurably improved the results for parents in youth court.
If "yes", the established right to counsel or discretionary appointment of counsel is limited in some way, including any of: the only authority is a lower/intermediate court decision or a city council, not a high court or state legislature; there has been a subsequent case that has cast doubt; a statute is ambiguous; or the right or discretionary appointment is not for all types of individuals or proceedings within that category.
Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no
|The NCCRC gave some input on the bill language.|