Supreme Court of Hawaii ruling strengthens parents’ right to counsel in child welfare cases

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03/11/2021, Litigation, Termination of Parental Rights (State) - Birth Parents

In a case that the NCCRC identified and helped assist with an appeal alongside Lawyers for Equal Justice, the ACLU of Hawaii Foundation, and the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, the Supreme Court of Hawaii has ruled that counsel must be appointed in child welfare cases upon filing of the petition and not later, that the failure to timely appoint counsel is reversible error, and that the right to appointed counsel extends to petitions for family supervision and not just where the State is seeking foster custody. In re L.I., 482 P.3d 1079 (Haw. 2021).  This case was a followup to a case the NCCRC identified and helped bring in 2014, In re T.M., which established the right to counsel in foster custody child welfare cases but introduced ambiguity as to the timing and did not address family supervision cases. 319 P.3d 338 (Haw. 2014).

The decision was covered by The Imprint.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no



The NCCRC identified the case and helped with the appeal and amicus briefing.