NJ court: counsel must be appointed prior to suspending driver's licenses
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).
12/07/2018, Litigation, Other subject area
In a long-awaited opinion, a trial court in New Jersey has held that the state must appoint counsel prior to suspending a person’s driver’s license due to inability to pay child support. The court found that while existing NJ Supreme Court precedent from a case called Rodriguez was not exactly on point (Rodriguez found a right to counsel for driver’s license suspensions in the criminal context), "[T]he New Jersey Constitution provides more due process protections than the United States Constitution" and "The New Jersey Supreme Court has  held that fundamental fairness guarantees the right to counsel at proceedings in which substantial interests are at stake.” The trial court then held that
[B]oth due process and fundamental fairness require courts to provide counsel to indigent obligors at any hearing at which a hearing officer may recommend a driver’s license suspension to a court, or at any hearing when the family court itself is considering a driver’s license suspension … a driver’s license suspension is a consequence of magnitude that triggers the right to counsel in criminal and municipal court cases ... While the Rodriguez Court referenced a 'substantial' loss of driving privileges, this court’s analysis of the private interests involved in maintaining a driver’s license renders even an “indefinite” or “temporary” suspension capable of imposing significant impacts with far-reaching consequences, especially for indigent obligors. Thus, it is hard to justify providing appointed counsel for indigent defendants in some proceedings where driver’s licenses may be suspended, but not for other proceedings.
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 worked closely with counsel on the right to counsel claim.