Federal court rules Georgia children have right to counsel in deprivation cases

01/01/2005, Litigation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children

In Kenny A. ex rel. Winn v. Perdue, 356 F. Supp. 2d 1353 (N.D. Ga. 2005), a federal court in Georgia noted that children have a statutory right to counsel in deprivation and termination of parental rights proceedings under Georgia law, but also went on to hold that children have the right to appointed counsel under the Georgia Constitution, Art. I, § 1, ¶ 1. The court reasoned that "children have fundamental liberty interests at stake in deprivation and TPR proceedings . . . includ[ing] a child's interest in his or her own safety, health, and well-being, as well as an interest in maintaining the integrity of the family unit."  The court found that because a child's fundamental liberty interests were at stake, there existed a significant risk of erroneous decisions, and the government functioned as parens patriae, it was in the state's and child's interest to appoint a child advocate attorney.  The case ostensibly affected only certain counties in the state that were the subject of the litigation, but in In re Formal Advisory Opinion No. 16-2, 2017 Ga. LEXIS 980 (Ga. 2017), the Supreme Court of Georgia citd to Kenny A for the broad proposition that “In addition to the child's statutory right to counsel, a child in a termination of parental rights proceedings also has a federal constitutional right to counsel.”

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes