Right to counsel

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Litigation, Termination of Parental Rights (Private) - Birth Parents

 In re S.A.J.B., 679 N.W.2d 645, 648 (Iowa 2004), the Iowa Supreme Court held it violated the state constitution's equal protection clause to provide counsel in state-initiated termination of parental rights proceedings but deny it in private terminations.

 

The court held that the proffered state interest in "conserving ... financial resources" was insufficient because it would suggest "no reason to provide counsel at public expense in any termination case," which would contravene Lassiter's pronouncement that the "automatic denial of counsel in all termination proceedings would deny due process."

 

The court also rejected a purported distinction between state-initiated Section 232 termination proceedings and private- party-initiated Section 600A termination proceedings based on the "vast resources of the state" with which the party must contend in the former. In so holding, the Court found state action by emphasizing that "the state is an integral part of the process in a 600A termination" as well because, even though the State does not initiate this type of termination proceeding, it is ultimately asked to use its unique power to issue an order terminating the resisting individual's parental rights.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no