News Release ~ 06/20/2011

Due Process May Require Appointment of Counsel in Civil Contempt Cases

Washington, DC (June 20, 2011) – Today the Supreme Court reaffirmed that freedom “from bodily restraint,” lies “at the core of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause.” In Turner v. Rogers, No. 10-10, a 5-4 majority held that the State of South Carolina violated a non-custodial parent’s right to due process of law by sentencing him to a year in jail without a reliable procedure for determining whether he had the ability to pay back child support or providing him with counsel to help him prove his case.

Pro bono counsel for Michael Turner, who was jailed for 12 months because of his inability to pay child support while he was unemployed, hailed the decision. Greenville, S.C., attorney Derek Enderlin said, “We are excited about the win and believe that in the long run this will benefit children more than anyone.” Enderlin is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), which filed amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, briefs in support of Mr. Turner in the South Carolina Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Joining NACDL in the U.S. Supreme Court brief were the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union. NACDL’s briefs arehere (U.S. Supreme Court), and here(S.C. Supreme Court).  

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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