Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Court Rule or Initiative, Civil Contempt in Family Court

Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 13(d)(1) states:


In the following cases, and in all other cases required by law, the court or appointing authority shall advise any party without counsel of the right to be represented throughout the case by counsel and that counsel will be appointed if the party is indigent and requests appointment of counsel. ... (B) Contempt of court proceedings in which the defendant is in jeopardy of incarceration."


However, Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 13(a)(1) states, "The purposes of this rule are: (A) to provide for the appointment of counsel in all proceedings in which an indigent party has a statutory or constitutional right to appointed counsel ..."  The Tennessee Supreme Court has further clarified that “Rule 13 does not create rights; it merely contains the procedural mechanism for implementing them.”  Summers v. State, 212 S.W.3d 251, 261 (Tenn. 2007).  Thus, the court found in Summers that appointment of counsel in habeas proceedings was discretionary, as per the language in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40–14–204, notwithstanding the seemingly mandatory language in the Tennessee Rules of the Supreme Court 13(d)(1)(C).  This suggests that the rule is not intended to itself create a right to appointed counsel, and there is no statute in Tennessee providing such a right.  There are, though, some intermediate Court of Appeals constitutional rulings finding such a right, so it is possible the rule is intended to implement such rulings.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes