Trial courts have inherent power to appoint counsel, says Supreme Court of Montana

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01/01/2011, Litigation, All Basic Human Needs

In 2011, in a case called Couturier v. Thirteenth Judicial District, 363 Mont. 416 (2011), attorneys for Montana Legal Services appealed the denial of counsel for a mother whose child was subject to a permanent guardianship proceeding (she had originally consented to temporary guardianship, but then sought to revoke her consent prior to establishment of permanent guardianship). The trial court originally refused to appoint counsel on the grounds that it lacked the statutory authority to do so. The Montana Supreme Court twice ordered the trial court to respond to the petitioner's arguments that there is a due process right to counsel. When the trial court failed to do so, the high court's final order directed the trial court to appoint pro bono counsel for the mother and reminded the trial court that it always has the inherent authority to appoint pro bono counsel in appropriate cases.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no



The NCCRC worked with Montana Legal Services on the petition to the Montana Supreme Court.