Right to counsel
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).
Litigation, Civil Contempt in Family Court
Relying in part on Lassiter v. Department of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18 (1981), the Vermont Supreme Court held the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution includes a right to the appointment of counsel in a civil proceeding where an indigent defendant faces "actual imprisonment." Choiniere v. Brooks, 163 Vt. 625, 626 (1995); Russell v. Armitage, 166 Vt. 392, 397 (1997). Although the United States Supreme Court had not expressly held counsel is required in civil contempt proceedings with a possibility of incarceration, the Vermont Supreme Court determined that it was compelled to find such a right to counsel consistent with United States Supreme Court decisions on related matters.
In Choiniere, a mittimus (arrest warrant) was issued by the family court after the defendant failed to pay child support. The Vermont Supreme Court asserted that "the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not distinguish between the 'criminal' or 'civil' nature of incarceration proceedings." Since the mittimus ordered the incarceration of a defendant who had not been afforded the benefit of counsel, the court vacated the incarceration order and ordered the family court to appoint counsel for the defendant. The Vermont Supreme Court encountered a similar scenario in Russell, where a parent was held in civil contempt for failing to pay child support. At the first hearing before the family court, the court did not appoint counsel for the parent but held him to be in civil contempt, and ordered him to comply with the child support order. At a later hearing, the Office of Child Support ("OCS") moved for incarceration, at which point the court, pursuant to the PDA, appointed a public defender to represent the parent. The Russell court held that a litigant is entitled to counsel at stages of the civil proceedings where a defendant is at risk of losing his liberty but that all due process requires a "full opportunity" to demonstrate, with the assistance of counsel, why defendant should not be incarcerated prior to incarceration. The court then reasoned that since "the [trial] court did not consider incarcerating the defendant without providing him another opportunity . . . to challenge his ability to comply with the child support order . . . with the aid of counsel," he was not at risk for incarceration and therefore not entitled to counsel at the first proceeding.
As a result of Turner v. Rogers, 131 S.Ct. 2507 (2011) (Fourteenth Amendment does not require right to counsel in civil contempt, at least where opponent is neither the state nor represented and matter is not "especially complex"), Russell and Choiniere are questionable for cases within the holding of Turner.
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