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Little SCOTUS Crim. Action Today

The US Supreme Court issued four decisions and took four new cases today, but all eight are civil cases.  In Turner v. Rogers, the right to counsel for contempt case, the fact that it is civil and not criminal is a key aspect of the case.

Gideon v. Wainwright and Argersinger v. Hamlin established that an indigent defendant facing jail in a criminal case is entitled to appointed counsel.  The requirement is based on the Sixth Amendment, which begins, "In all criminal prosecutions...."  So how about a civil case, specifically one for payment of child support?  Justice Breyer gives us a characteristically "it depends" answer:

In our view, a categorical right to counsel in proceedings of the kind before us would carry with it disadvantages (in the form of unfairness and delay) that, in terms of ultimate fairness, would deprive it of significant superiority over the alternatives that we have mentioned. We consequently hold that the Due Process Clause does not automatically require the provision of counsel at civil contempt proceedings to an indigent individual who is subject to a child support order, even if that individual faces incarceration (for up to a year). In particular, that Clause does not require the provision of counsel where the opposing parent or other custodian (to whom support funds are owed) is not represented by counsel and the State provides alternative procedural safeguards equivalent to those we have mentioned (adequate notice of the importance of ability to pay, fair opportunity to present, and to dispute, relevant information, and court findings).
In other action, the Court turned down ACORN in its bid to belly up to the government trough again despite being booted by Congress.  The decision of the Second Circuit involved the Bill of Attainder Clause, not an issue you see every day.  AP story here.

The Court declined to take up again the case of schizophrenic murderer Scott Panetti.  It relisted for the third time Russell v. California.

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