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Turner v. Rogers and the Ghost Of Gagnon v. Scarpelli (Inside NACDL)
By Norman L. Reimer
Supreme Court Declines to Require the Appointment Of Counsel for Civil Litigants Facing Incarceration
It seems that every Term or so, the Supreme Court decides a civil case of great relevance to the criminal defense bar. The 2010-2011 Term was no exception. On June 20, 2011, the Court decided Turner v. Rogers (see page 10 in this issue). In an opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, a closely divided Court (5-4) held that while the 14th Amendment does not require the appointment of counsel for an indigent person facing incarceration for civil contempt, it does require adequate safeguards to ensure a fundamentally fair determination. The case involved a finding by a South Carolina court that Michael Turner had willfully failed to pay child support in the amount of $5,728.76, and the court’s imposition of a one-year jail sentence.
NACDL filed a joint amicus brief with the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the Southern Center for Human Rights,
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