Right to counsel

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Litigation, Civil Contempt in Family Court

In Sanders v. Shephard, 541 N.E.2d 1150 (Ill. App. Ct. 1989), a defendant was imprisoned for indirect civil contempt for failure to produce a child at court when ordered, and the court relied on Walker v. McClain, 768 F.2d 1181 (10th Cir. 1985) and Lassiter v. Department of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18 (1981) to find a right to counsel (presumably under the Fourteenth Amendment, based on its reliance on federal cases). Quoting Lassiter, the court reiterated that"'[i]t is the defendant's interest in personal freedom, and not simply the special sixth and fourteenth amendment right to counsel in criminal cases, which triggers the right to appointed counsel.'" The court, citing to a string of cases, went on to state that nearly every court dealing with the issue of counsel in an indirect civil contempt case had rejected a distinction between civil and criminal proceedings if there is a threat of incarceration. Concluding that the defendant in the case before them was entitled to counsel the court went on to affirm that when the person is indigent, counsel should be appointed.

 

On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court stated that "[t]he prior appeal resolved, correctly, the respondent's contentions regarding the . . . limited availability of appointed counsel." Sanders v. Shephard, 645 N.E.2d 900, 906 (Ill. 1994). It is not clear what the phrase "limited availability" means, and it is also noteworthy that the court made no reference to a different Illinois appellate court that had reached a different conclusion as to the right to appointed counsel. It is also unclear what effect the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Turner v. Rogers will have on this case.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes