Trial courts have inherent power to appoint counsel, says Supreme Court of Montana
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).
01/01/2011, Litigation, All Basic Human Needs
In 2011, attorneys for Montana Legal Services appealed the denial of counsel for a mother whose child was subject to a permanent guardianship proceeding (she had originally consented to temporary guardianship, but then sought to revoke her consent prior to establishment of permanent guardianship). The trial court originally refused to appoint counsel on the grounds that it lacked the statutory authority to do so. The Montana Supreme Court twice ordered the trial court to respond to the petitioner's arguments that there is a due process right to counsel. When the trial court failed to do so, the high court's final order directed the trial court to appoint pro bono counsel for the mother and reminded the trial court that it always has the inherent authority to appoint pro bono counsel in appropriate cases.
Cite: Couturier v. Thirteenth Judicial District, OP 11-0459 (Mont. 2011).
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 worked with Montana Legal Services on the petition to the Montana Supreme Court.|