Fed court: NJ township violated defendant's right to counsel in fees/fines case
While a state may have many statutes, court decisions, or court rules governing appointment of counsel for a particular subject area, a "Key Development" is a statute/decision/rule that prevails over the others (example: a state high court decision finding a categorical right to counsel in guardianships cases takes precedence over a statute saying appointment in guardianship cases is discretionary).
04/02/2018, Litigation, Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)
In Kneisser v. McInerney, a New Jersey township was jailing defendants due to failure to pay municipal fines. The case was particularly egregious because the township in question had a sign posted in the courtroom saying that people were required to pay their fines in full on the day of sentencing. When the defendant said he couldn’t pay that day, the court told him to make a phone call, and when the defendant said he had no one to call, the court sentenced him to jail. In its opinion, among other things, the court found that the imposition of jail was part of sentencing, not a subsequent “failure to pay a fine”, and therefore the Sixth Amendment applied. The court also rejected the Township’s argument that the defendant’s waiver of counsel when the fine was imposed was also a waiver when the court subsequently sentenced him to jail. Congratulations to the Marguerite Kneisser and the ACLU of New Jersey for their great work on this case! (we played a very small part in the early stages).
The case has gotten some nice media coverage from the ABA Journal and Courthouse News Service.
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: categorical Qualified: yes
The NCCRC provided some technical assistance in the early stages of the case.