Right to counsel

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Legislation, Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)

In civil contempt proceedings not handled in family court, the court must "inform the offender that he or she has the right to the assistance of counsel," and the statute states that the court has the discretion to appoint counsel if the offender is financially unable to do so. N.Y. Jud. Law § 770. While this sounds discretionary, one court has said that § Section 770 "require[s] the court to make a choice once indigency is found: either retain the power to punish the offender with a term of imprisonment by assigning counsel, or surrender that power by proceeding without assignment of counsel." Holmes v. Holmes, 454 N.Y.S.2d 22, 23 (App. Div. 1982) (remanding order of contempt so that court could make finding of indigency on issue of appointment of counsel); see also Clemens v. Clemens, 817 N.Y.S.2d 87, 88 (App. Div. 2006) (instructing the appointment of counsel under section 770 for a "defendant, appearing pro se, [who] asked for the assistance of assigned counsel on the ground that he was unemployed and had no income or assets").5

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes