The Wall Street Journal reports that the Supreme Court has ruled that poor civil litigants that face incarceration do not have automatic right to counsel.
The justices voted 5-4 to uphold the appeal of Michael Turner of South Carolina who was sent to jail after he insisted that he could not pay his child support payments. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority of the courts four liberal-leaning justices and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy saying, “the Due Process Clause does not always require the provision of counsel in civil proceedings where incarceration is threatened.”
“Breyer noted in his ruling that both parties in a child support case are often unrepresented by lawyers, and providing a lawyer “could create an asymmetry of representation” altering significantly the nature of the proceeding, according to the ABA Journal.”
But Breyer also said that since Turner was never told that his ability to pay child support was a crucial question and he was never given a form to disclose his financial information, that “Turner’s incarceration violated the Due Process Clause.
The Supreme Court’s four conservative justices dissented. The case is Turner vs. Rogers.