Contempt of Court

High Court hears arguments on right to counsel in civil contempt proceedings with possible jail time

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 12:23 PM

On March 23, 2011, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Turner v. Rogers – a case squarely addressing whether an indigent person can be jailed on civil contempt without being given a lawyer to represent him.  Michael Turner served a year in prison when he was held in contempt by a South Carolina court for failing to timely pay child support, but he had to represent himself in court and had no lawyer to represent him.

On August 16, 2007, a public defense attorney in Portage County, Ohio was appointed to represent a client on the very day the client's case was set to go to trial by jury.  The attorney asked for a delay to investigate and prepare, but the judge only gave him an extended 2 1/2 hour lunch break.  Unable to proceed with the trial, the attorney was arrested, convicted, and sentenced by the judge for contempt of court.

This Resolution issued, commending the public defense attorney for defending his client's right to effective assistance of counsel, and condemning the judge's actions.

Author/Organization: American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD)
Publication Date: 08/25/2007

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High Court asked whether poor can be jailed on contempt without lawyer

BY Jon Mosher on Friday, January 14, 2011 at 2:55 PM

The United States Supreme Court has been asked to hear a case squarely addressing whether an indigent person can be jailed on civil contempt, without being given a lawyer to represent him.  In Turner v. Rogers, Michael Turner served a year in prison when he was held in contempt by a South Carolina court for failing to timely pay child support, but he had to represent himself in court and had no lawyer to represent him.  "The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the sentence was coercive, rather than punitive, and Turner had no right to a lawyer," explains the ABA Journal.