Discretionary appointment of counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Legislation, Domestic Violence - Alleged Victim

D.C. Code § 16-1003, which covers civil protection orders, states that "[t]he Attorney General may provide individual legal representation to a petitioner, or person authorized by this section to act on petitioner's behalf, who files a petition in accordance with subsection (a) of this section. Whenever the Attorney General represents a petitioner under subsection (a) of this section, the representation shall continue until the civil protection order terminates or the Attorney General withdraws his or her appearance, whichever is earlier."  As explained by one court, "[a]s initially enacted, the statute provided that petitioners would be represented by Corporation Counsel. Due to the great number of CPO petitions, the District of Columbia Council revised the statute in 1982 to allow petitioners to proceed pro se. Corporation Counsel continues to be involved in some cases." Cloutterbuck v. Cloutterbuck, 556 A.2d 1082, 1084 n.2 (D.C. 1989).


Additionally, D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(4) specifies that in intrafamily proceedings involving a protective order, "[I]f the petitioner is a minor and at least 12 years of age, and if the minor is not accompanied by a parent, guardian, custodian, other appropriate adult, or represented by an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the minor if such an appointment would not unduly delay the issuance or denial of a protection order." See also D.C. Code § 16-1003(a)(3) ("A minor who is at least 12 but less than 16 years of age and a victim of intimate partner violence may file a petition for civil protection and participate in a hearing to seek a temporary protection order without a parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult acting on his or her behalf, but, under these circumstances, the court may appoint an attorney for the minor in accordance with section 16-1005(a-1)(3), if necessary, and if doing so will not unduly delay the issuance or denial of a temporary protection order.")


Additionally, D.C. Code § 16-1003 and § 16-1062 were amended in 2021 to specify that where a child is seeking certain kinds of civil protection orders or an anti-stalking order, the Domestic Violence Division can appoint an attorney to represent an unrepresented minor who is a party to the proceeding where the appointment would not unreasonably delay the issuance or denial of such an order.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: yes