Vermont Supreme Court affirms right to counsel in contempt proceedings

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11/01/2018, Litigation, Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)

A few pre-Turner v. Rogers cases in Vermont recognized a federal constitutional right to counsel in civil contempt proceedings: Choiniere v. Brooks, 163 Vt. 625, 626 (1995) and Russell v. Armitage, 166 Vt. 392, 397 (1997).  Russell involved a contempt proceeding initiated by the State, but did not specifically rely on that fact, and in fact relied on a series of federal cases like Gault and Argersinger v. Hamelin.  These cases seemed to be on questionable ground after Turner.


However, in In re McCoy-Jacien, 2018 VT 116 (2018), the court stated in the context of a civil contempt proceeding (one involving a suspended attorney who failed to cooperate in an effort to protect her clients’ interests) that “Respondent has a right to represented by an attorney at this hearing and if she cannot afford an attorney, she has the right to request that an attorney be appointed for her by this Court”, and cited to Russell.  This suggests that Russell may have state constitutional underpinnings, or more likely that the presence of the State in Russell put the case outside of Turner.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no