NJ appellate court: counsel required in administrative abuse/neglect cases

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06/17/2019, Litigation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents

In DCPP v. L.O., the Superior Court (Appellate Division) has held that because the determinations made in an administrative proceeding to determine parental abuse/neglect implicate "consequences of magnitude", the parents are entitled to appointed counsel for that administrative proceeding as well as an appeal to the Superior Court.  The "consequences of magnitude" test is specific to New Jersey. 

 

In reaching this conclusion, the court relied on the fact that New Jersey parents are entitled to counsel if the State chooses to use a judicial forum to adjudicate abuse/neglect rather than an administrative one, that a substantiated finding leads to a permanent inclusion in the Child Abuse Registry (which can affect the parent's later ability to foster children or obtain certain employment, as well as subject a parent to a termination of parental rights action), and that there is an imbalance of power between the State and the parent in the proceeding.  Although the court conceded that parental rights were not directly threatened in the administrative proceeding, it observed that "the adjudication itself may play a role in a future infringement or termination of the parental relationship."

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no

 

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The NCCRC contributed to an amicus brief filed by the ACLU of New Jersey.