Right to counsel

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Legislation, Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)

In Brotzman v. Brotzman, 283 N.W.2d 600 (Wis. Ct. App. 1979), the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court’s denial of an indigent defendant’s motion for appointment of counsel in a civil contempt action initiated by the district attorney.  The circuit court, despite finding that the defendant was indigent, had denied the motion and found that the defendant had no constitutional or statutory right to court-appointed counsel.  Id. at 601.  The Court of Appeals held that because the state was “exercising its police power to threaten an individual’s liberty” and “[t]he defendant may be incarcerated if he is found in contempt,” the defendant was “entitled to counsel regardless of his ability to pay.”  Id. at 602.  As such, “[u]nder the provisions which phase in the state public defender system, the court should have informed [defendant] of his right to counsel[,]” and “[u]pon find the defendant was indigent, in the absence of an available representative of the state public defender or waiver by the defendant, the court should have assigned counsel for the defendant.”  Id.  In so holding, the Court of Appeals cited to Wis. Stat. Ann. § 967.06, which currently reads:  "As soon as practicable after a person has been detained or arrested in connection with any offense that is punishable by incarceration, or in connection with any civil commitment proceeding, or in any other situation in which a person is entitled to counsel regardless of ability to pay under the constitution or laws of the United States or this state, the person shall be informed of his or her right to counsel.”  It is unclear whether § 967.06 had the same language in 1979 as it does now.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes