Right to counsel

Litigation, Civil Commitment

In Lessard v. Schmidt, 349 F.Supp. 1078 (E.D. Wis. 1972), vacated and remanded on procedural grounds, 414 U.S. 473 (1974), reinstated, 413 F. Supp. 1318 (E.D. Wis. 1976), a federal court found a constitutional right to appointed counsel for Wisconsin civil commitment proceedings and, rejecting the contention the appointment of a guardian ad litem could adequately protect the due process rights of the person to be committed, held that “a person detained on ground of mental illness has a right to counsel, and to appointed counsel if the individual is indigent.”  349 F.Supp. at 1097.  In so holding, the court relied on other federal court decisions and noted also that “[t]he importance of counsel has [ ] been stressed in the American Bar Foundation report on the mentally ill.”  Id. at 1097-98.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes