MA Supreme Court: indigent guardians may be appointed counsel
04/13/2017, Litigation, Custody Disputes - Children
In Guardianship of K.N., SJC-12195 (Mass. 2017), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that while guardians of children might be considered de facto parents in certain circumstances, their parenting interest was not a liberty interest justifying a due process right to appointed counsel in proceedings to remove the guardian.
However, the court held that the Probate and Family Court could use its “broad” equitable powers to appoint counsel for an indigent guardian where it would assist in determining the best interests of the children or parental fitness, particularly “where the child or legal parent may be unwilling or unable to present a full picture of the case to the judge, whether because the guardian has all the necessary and relevant information about the child or the legal parent has an incentive to withhold information.”
If "yes", the established right to counsel or discretionary appointment of counsel is limited in some way, including any of: the only authority is a lower/intermediate court decision or a city council, not a high court or state legislature; there has been a subsequent case that has cast doubt; a statute is ambiguous; or the right or discretionary appointment is not for all types of individuals or proceedings within that category.
Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: yes