Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No Constitutional Right to Counsel in Civil Contempt Cases

Turner v. Rogers, 564 U.S. ____ (2011).

Turner had been found in contempt five times for failure to pay child support.  The fifth time Turner did not pay the amount owing and served 6 months.  After his release, the court issued another order to show cause and sentenced him to 12 months in jail without making a finding as to Turner's ability to pay.  He appealed.

Turner argued that he should have been provided counsel at the show cause hearing because there was a chance that he would be subject to incarceration.

The Supreme Court found that due process requirements are met and punishment can be imposed if the alleged contemnor is found to have had notice of the order, ability to comply with the order and willful noncompliance with the order.  No further safeguards are required, and if those safeguards are preserved the Court may impose jail time.

Full Decision available at

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