Right to counsel - CRA proceedings

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Child in Need of Supervision Proceedings (incomplete)

When a child is alleged to be in need of services and is brought before a juvenile court or a juvenile session of a district court on a petition seeking a determination of such need (called a Child Requiring Assistance, or CRA, proceeding), the child shall have counsel appointed for him or her (at all hearings pertaining to the determination of need of services) if the child is not able to retain counsel. M.G.L. ch. 119, § 39F. In such cases, the court shall determine whether the parents or guardian of the child is also indigent. If the parent or guardian is not indigent, the court shall assess a $300 fee against the parent or guardian to pay for the cost of court appointed counsel, and if the parent is indigent but able to contribute some payment, the court shall order the parent to pay a reasonable amount towards the cost of appointed counsel. 


The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that, pursuant to M.G.L. Ch. 119, § 29, indigent parents are entitled to court-appointed counsel at the dispositional phase of a CRA proceeding if it is possible that custody of the child will be awarded to the Department of Social Services because the Department is a party. In re Hilary, 880 N.E.2d 343, 345, 346 (Mass. 2008) ("[I]f the child is subject to a permanency plan, both the parent and child are entitled to counsel and, if either the parent or child is indigent, counsel will be appointed."). If the judge is not considering removing the child from the custody of the parents, however, counsel need not be appointed for the parents.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes