Right to counsel
Litigation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents
In In Re Shelby, 804 A.2d 435, 437-38 (N.H. 2002), the New Hampshire Supreme Court stated in a plurality opinion that stepparents who are members of a household are categorically entitled to counsel in abuse/neglect proceedings under the state decision. The court relied on the damage to family relationships caused by a finding of abuse/neglect, the risk of error, and the potential for complex testimony.
After Shelby, the court took up the issue again in In re C.M., 48 A.3d 942 (N.H. 2012). This time, a different plurality of the court held that under the New Hampshire Constitution, counsel was not required for parents in all dependency proceedings. The court relied on the use of relaxed rules of evidence and the fact that the case was heard by a judge and not a jury to find that the risk of erroneous deprivation was not so high as to always require counsel. The court also found that at the dependency stage, the state's interests were still aligned with the parents in terms of trying to maintain the parent-child relationship. Because this was another plurality decision, it is not necessarily the last word on the subject.
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: categorical Qualified: yes
|NCCRC filed an amicus brief in the C.M. case.|